Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Duncan Harrod
F. Hopkinson Smith
"Kennedy Square, in the late fifties, was a place of birds and trees and
flowers; of rude stone benches, sagging arbors smothered in vines, and
cool dirt paths bordered by sweet-smelling box. Giant magnolias filled
the air with their fragrance, and climbing roses played hide-and-seek
among the railings of the rotting fence. Along the shaded walks laughing
boys and girls romped all day, with hoop and ball, attended by old black
mammies in white aprons and gayly colored bandannas; while in the more
secluded corners, sheltered by protecting shrubs, happy lovers sat and
talked, tired wayfarers rested with hats off, and staid old gentlemen
read by the hour, their noses in their books.
"Outside of all this color, perfume, and old-time charm; outside the
grass-line and the rickety wooden fence that framed them in, ran an
uneven pavement splashed with cool shadows and stained with green mould.
Here, in summer, the watermelon man stopped his cart; and there, in
winter, upon its broken bricks, old Moses unhooked his bucket of oysters
and ceased for a moment his droning call.
"On the shady side of the square, and half hidden in ivy, was a Noah's
Ark church, topped by a quaint belfry holding a bell that had not rung
for years, and faced by a clock-dial all weather-stains and cracks,
around which travelled a single rusty hand. In its shadow to the right
lay the home of the archdeacon, a stately mansion with Corinthian
columns reaching to the roof and surrounded by a spacious garden filled
with damask roses and bushes of sweet syringa. To the left crouched a
row of dingy houses built of brick, their iron balconies hung in
flowering vines, the windows glistening with panes of wavy glass purpled
"On the sunny side of the square, opposite the church, were more houses,
high and low: one all garden, filled with broken-nosed statues hiding
behind still more magnolias; and another all veranda and honeysuckle,
big rocking-chairs and swinging hammocks; and still others with porticos
curtained by white jasmine or Virginia creeper."
--From "The Fortunes of Oliver Horn."
On the precise day on which this story opens--some sixty or more years
ago, to be exact--a bullet-headed, merry-eyed, mahogany-colored young
darky stood on the top step of an old-fashioned, high-stoop house,
craning his head up and down and across Kennedy Square in the effort to
get the first glimpse of his master, St. George Wilmot Temple, attorney
and counsellor-at-law, who was expected home from a ducking trip down
Whether it was the need of this very diet, or whether St. George had
felt a sudden longing for the out-of-doors, is a matter of doubt, but
certain it is that some weeks before the very best shot in the county
had betaken himself to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, accompanied by his
guns, his four dogs, and two or three choice men of fashion--young
bloods of the time--men with whom we shall become better acquainted as
these chronicles go on--there to search for the toothsome and elusive
canvas-back for which his State was famous.
That the darky was without a hat and in his shirt-sleeves, and it
winter--the middle of January, really--the only warm thing about him
being the green baize apron tied about his waist, his customary livery
when attending to his morning duties--did not trouble him in the least.
Marse George might come any minute, and he wanted to be the first to
For the past few weeks Todd had had the house to himself. Coal-black
Aunt Jemima, with her knotted pig-tails, capacious bosom, and unconfined
waist, forty years his senior and ten shades darker in color, it is
true, looked after the pots and pans, to say nothing of a particular
spit on which her master's joints and game were roasted; but the upper
part of the house, which covered the drawing-room, dining-room, bedroom,
and dressing-room in the rear, as well as the outside of the dwelling,
including even the green-painted front door and the slant of white
marble steps that dropped to the brick sidewalk, were the especial
property of the chocolate-colored darky.
To these duties was added the exclusive care of the master himself--a
care which gave the boy the keenest delight, and which embraced every
service from the drawing off of St. George Wilmot Temple's boots to the
shortening of that gentleman's slightly gray hair; the supervision of
his linen, clothes, and table, with such side issues as the custody of
his well-stocked cellar, to say nothing of the compounding of various
combinations, sweet, sour, and strong, the betrayal of whose secrets
would have cost the darky his place.
"Place" is the word, for Todd was not St. George's slave, but the
property of a well-born, if slightly impoverished, gentleman who lived
on the Eastern Shore, and whose chief source of income was the hiring
out to his friends and acquaintances of just such likely young darkies
as Todd--a custom common to the impecunious of those days.
As Mr. Temple, however, did not come under either one of the
above-mentioned classes--the "slightly impoverished gentleman" never
having laid eyes on him in his life--the negotiations had to be
conducted with a certain formality. Todd had therefore, on his arrival,
unpinned from the inside of his jacket a portentous document signed with
his owner's name and sealed with a red wafer, which after such
felicitous phrases as--"I have the distinguished honor," etc.--gave the
boy's age (21), weight (140 pounds), and height (5 feet 10 inches)--all
valuable data for identification in case the chattel conceived a notion
of moving further north (an unnecessary precaution in Todd's case). To
this was added the further information that the boy had been raised
under his master's heels, that he therefore knew his pedigree, and that
his sole and only reason for sparing him from his own immediate service
was his own poverty and the fact that while under St. George's care the
boy could learn how "to wait on quality."
As to the house itself--the "Temple Mansion," as it was called--that was
as much a part of Kennedy Square as the giant magnolias gracing the
park, or the Noah's Ark church, with its quaint belfry and cracked bell,
which faced its shady walks. Nobody, of course, remembered how long it
had been built--that is, nobody then alive--I mean the very date. Such
authorities as Major Clayton were positive that the bricks had been
brought from Holland; while Richard Horn, the rising young scientist,
was sure that all the iron and brass work outside were the product of
Sheffield; but in what year they had all been put together had always
been a disputed question.
That, however, which was certain and beyond doubt, was that St. George's
father, old General Dorsey Temple, had purchased the property near the
close of the preceding century; that he had, with his characteristic
vehemence, pushed up the roof, thrust in two dormer windows, and smashed
out the rear wall, thus enlarging the dining-room and giving increased
space for a glass-covered porch ending in a broad flight of wooden steps
descending to a rose-garden surrounded by a high brick wall; that thus
encouraged he had widened the fireplaces, wainscoted the hall, built a
new mahogany spider-web staircase leading to his library on the second
floor, and had otherwise disported himself after the manner of a man
who, having suddenly fallen heir to a big pot of money, had ever after
continued oblivious to the fact that the more holes he punched in its
bottom the less water would spill over its top. The alterations
complete, balls, routs, and dinners followed to such distinguished
people as Count Rochambeau, the Marquis de Castellux, Marquis de
Lafayette, and other high dignitaries, coming-of-age parties for the
young bloods--quite English in his tastes was the old gentleman--not to
mention many other extravagances which were still discussed by the
gossips of the day.
With the general's death--it had occurred some twenty years before--the
expected had happened. Not only was the pot nearly empty, but the
various drains which it had sustained had so undermined the family
rent-roll that an equally disastrous effect had been produced on the
mansion itself (one of the few pieces of property, by the way, that the
father had left to his only son and heir unencumbered, with the
exception of a suit in chancery from which nobody ever expected a
penny), the only dry spots in St. George's finances being the few ground
rents remaining from his grandmother's legacy and the little he could
pick up at the law.
It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that certain changes and
deteriorations had taken place inside and out of the historic
building--changes which never in the slightest degree affected the
even-tempered St. George, who had retained his own private apartments
regardless of the rest of the house--but changes which, in all justice
to the irascible old spendthrift, would have lifted that gentleman out
of his grave could he have realized their effect and extent. What a
shock, for instance, would the most punctilious man of his time have
received when he found his front basement rented for a law office, to
say nothing of a disreputable tin sign nailed to a shutter--where in the
olden time he and his cronies had toasted their shins before blazing
logs, the toddies kept hot on the hearth! And what a row would he have
raised had he known that the rose-garden was entirely neglected and
given over to the dogs and their kennels; the library in the second
story stripped of its books and turned into a guest-chamber, and the
books themselves consigned to the basement; the oak-panelled dining-room
transformed into a bedchamber for St. George, and the white-and-gold
drawing-room fronting the street reduced to a mere living-room where his
son and heir made merry with his friends! And then the shrinkages all
about! When a room could be dispensed with, it was locked up. When a
shingle broke loose, it stayed loose; and so did the bricks capping the
chimneys, and the leaky rain-spouts that spattered the dingy bricks, as
well as the cracks and crannies that marred the ceilings and walls.
And yet so great was Todd's care over the outside fittings of the
house--details which were necessarily in evidence, and which determined
at a glance the quality of the folks inside--that these several
crumblings, shake-downs, and shrinkages were seldom noticed by the
passer-by. The old adage that a well-brushed hat, a clean collar,
polished shoes, and immaculate gloves--all terminal details--make the
well-dressed man, no matter how shabby or how ill-fitting his
intermediate apparel, applied, according to Todd's standards, to houses
as well as Brummels. He it was who soused the windows of purple glass,
polished the brass knobs, rubbed bright the brass knocker and brass
balls at the top and bottom of the delightful iron railings, to say
nothing of the white marble steps, which he attacked with a slab of
sandstone and cake of fuller's-earth, bringing them to so high a state
of perfection that one wanted to apologize for stepping on them. Thus it
was that the weather-beaten rainspouts, stained bricks, sagging roof,
and blistered window-sashes were no longer in evidence. Indeed, their
very shabbiness so enhanced the brilliancy of Todd's handiwork that the
most casual passers-by were convinced at a glance that gentlefolk lived
On this particular morning, then, Todd had spent most of the time since
daylight--it was now eight o'clock--in the effort to descry his master
making his way along the street, either afoot or by some conveyance, his
eyes dancing, his ears alert as a rabbit's, his restless feet marking
the limit of his eagerness. In his impatience he had practised every
step known to darkydom in single and double shuffle; had patted juba on
one and both knees, keeping time with his heels to the rhythm; had slid
down and climbed up the railings a dozen times, his eyes on the turn in
the street, and had otherwise conducted himself as would any other boy,
black or white, who was at his wits' end to know what to do with the
next second of his time.
Aunt Jemima had listened to the racket until she had lost all patience,
and at last threw up the basement window:
"Go in an' shet dat do'--'fo' I come up dar an' smack ye--'nough ter
make a body deef ter hear ye," she called, her black shining face
dividing the curtains. "How you know he's a-comin'?"
Todd leaned over the railing and peered down: "Mister Harry Rutter done
tol' me--said dey all 's a-comin'--de jedge an' Doctor Teackle an' Marse
George an' de hull kit an' bilin'. Dey's been gone mos' two weeks
now,--dey's a-comin' I tell ye--be yere any minute."
"I b'liebe dat when I sees it. Fool nigger like you b'liebe anything.
You better go inside 'fo' you catch yo' dea'f. I gin ye fair warnin'
right now dat I ain't gwineter nuss ye,--d'ye yere?--standin' out dar
like a tarr-pin wid yo' haid out. Go in I tell ye!" and she shut the
window with a bang and made her way to the kitchen.
Todd kept up his double shuffle with everything going--hands, feet, and
knees--thrashed his arms about his chest and back to keep up the
circulation and with a final grimace in the direction of the old cook
maintained his watch.
"I spec's it's de fog dat's kep' 'em," he muttered anxiously, his feet
still in action. "Dat bay boat's mos' allus late,--can't tell when
she'll git in. Only las' week--Golly!--dar he is--DAT'S HIM!"
A mud-bespattered gig was swinging around the corner into the Square,
and with a swerve in its course was heading to where Todd stood.
The boy sprang down the steps:
"Yere he is, Aunt Jemima!" he shouted, as if the old cook could have
heard him through three brick walls.
The gig came to a stand-still and began to unload: first the dogs, who
had been stowed under their master's feet since they left the steamboat
wharf, and who with a clear bound to the sidewalk began scouring in mad
circles, one after another, up and down Todd's immaculate steps, the
four in full cry until the entire neighborhood was aroused, the late
sleepers turning over with the remark--"Temple's at home," and the early
risers sticking their heads out of the windows to count the ducks as
they were passed out. Next the master: One shapely leg encased in an
English-made ducking boot, then its mate, until the whole of his
handsome, well-knit, perfectly healthy and perfectly delightful body was
clear of the cramped conveyance.
"Hello, Todd!" he burst out, his face aglow with his drive from the
boat-landing--"glad to see you! Here, take hold of these guns---easy
now, they won't hurt you; one at a time, you lunkhead! And now pull
those ducks from under the seat. How's Aunt Jemima?--Oh, is that you
aunty?" She had come on the run as soon as she heard the dogs.
"Everything all right, aunty--howdy--" and he shook her hand heartily.
The old woman had made a feint to pull her sleeves down over her plump
black arms and then, begrudging the delay, had grasped his outstretched
hand, her face in a broad grin.
"Yes, sah, dat's me. Clar' to goodness, Marse George, I's glad ter git
ye home. Lawd-a-massy, see dem ducks! Purty fat, ain't dey, sah?
My!--dat pair's jes' a-bustin'! G'long you fool nigger an' let me hab
'em! G'way f'om dere I tell ye!"
"No,--you pick them up, Todd--they're too heavy for you, aunty. You go
back to your kitchen and hurry up breakfast--waffles, remember,--and
some corn pone and a scallop shell or two--I'm as hungry as a bear."
The whole party were mounting the steps now, St. George carrying the
guns, Todd loaded down with the game--ten brace of canvas-backs and
redheads strung together by their bills--the driver of the gig following
with the master's big ducking overcoat and smaller traps--the four dogs
crowding up trying to nose past for a dash into the wide hall as soon as
Todd opened the door.
"Anybody been here lately, Todd?" his master asked, stopping for a
moment to get a better grip of his heaviest duck gun.
"Ain't nobody been yere partic'ler 'cept Mister Harry Rutter. Dey alls
knowed you was away. Been yere mos' ev'ry day--come ag'in yisterday."
"Mr. Rutter been here!--Well, what did he want?"
"Dunno, sah,--didn't say. Seemed consid'ble shook up when he foun' you
warn't to home. I done tol' him you might be back to-day an' den ag'in
you mightn't--'pended on de way de ducks was flyin'. Spec' he'll be
roun' ag'in purty soon--seemed ter hab sumpin' on his min'. I'll tu'n de
knob, sah. Yere--git down, you imp o' darkness,--you Floe!--you Dandy!
Drat dem dogs!--Yere, YERE!" but all four dogs were inside now, making a
sweepstakes of the living-room, the rugs and cushions flying in every
Although Todd had spent most of the minutes since daylight peering up
and down the Square, eager for the first sight of the man whom he loved
with an idolatry only to be found in the negro for a white man whom he
respects, and who is kind to him, he had not neglected any of his other
duties. There was a roaring wood fire behind brass andirons and fender.
There was a breakfast table set for two--St. George's invariable custom.
"Somebody might drop in, you know, Todd." There was a big easy-chair
moved up within warming distance of the cheery blaze; there were pipes
and tobacco within reach of the master's hand; there was the weekly
newspaper folded neatly on the mantel, and a tray holding an
old-fashioned squat decanter and the necessary glasses--in fact, all the
comforts possible and necessary for a man who having at twenty-five
given up all hope of wedded life, found himself at fifty becoming
accustomed to its loss.
St. George seized the nearest dog by the collar, cuffed him into
obedience as an example to the others, ordered the four to the hearth
rug, ran his eye along the mantel to see what letters had arrived in his
absence, and disappeared into his bedroom. From thence he emerged half
an hour later attired in the costume of the day--a jaunty brown
velveteen jacket, loose red scarf, speckled white waistcoat--single-
breasted and of his own pattern and cut--dove-gray trousers, and white
gaiters. No town clothes for St. George as long as his measure was in
London and his friends were good enough to bring him a trunk full every
year or two. "Well-cut garments may not make a gentleman," he would
often say to the youngsters about him, "but slip-shod clothes can spoil
He had drawn up to the table now, Todd in white jacket hovering about
him, bringing relays of waffles, hot coffee, and more particularly the
first of a series of great scallop-shells filled with oysters which he
had placed on the well-brushed hearth to keep hot while his master was
Fifty he was by the almanac, and by the old family Bible as well, and
yet he did not look it. Six feet and an inch; straight, ruddy-checked,
broad-shouldered, well-rounded, but with his waist measure still under
control; slightly gray at the temples, with clean-shaven face, laughing
eyes, white teeth, and finely moulded nose, brow, and chin, he was
everything his friends claimed--the perfect embodiment of all that was
best in his class and station, and of all that his blood had bequeathed
And fine old fellows they were if we can believe the historians of the
seventeenth century: "Wearing the falchion and the rapier, the cloth
coat lined with plush and embroidered belt, the gold hat-band and the
feathers, silk stockings and garters, besides signet rings and other
jewels; wainscoting the walls of their principal rooms in black oak and
loading their sideboards with a deal of rich and massive silver plate
upon which was carved the arms of their ancestors;--drinking, too,
strong punch and sack from 'silver sack-cups'--(sack being their
favorite)--and feasting upon oysters and the most delicious of all the
ducks of the world."
And in none of their other distinguishing qualities was their descendant
lacking. In the very lift of his head and brace of his shoulders; in the
grace and ease with which be crossed the room, one could see at a glance
something of the dash and often the repose of the cavalier from whom he
had sprung. And the sympathy, kindness, and courtesy of the man that
showed in every glance of his eye and every movement of his
body--despite his occasional explosive temper--a sympathy that drifted
in to an ungovernable impulse to divide everything he owned into two
parts, and his own half into two once more if the other fellow needed
it; a kindness that made every man his friend, and a courtesy which,
even in a time when men lifted their hats to men, as well as to women,
had gained for him, the town over, the soubriquet of "Gentleman George";
while to every young girl and youth under twenty he was just "dear Uncle
George"--the one man in all Kennedy Square who held their secrets.
But to our breakfast once more. All four dogs were on their feet now,
their tails wagging expectantly, their noses at each of his knees, where
they were regaled at regular intervals with choice bits from his plate,
the snapping of their solemn jaws expressing their thanks. A second
scallop-shell was next lifted from the hearth with the tongs, and
deposited sizzling hot on a plate beside the master, the aroma of the
oysters filling the room. These having disappeared, as had the former
one, together with the waffles and coffee, and the master's appetite
being now on the wane, general conversation became possible.
"Did Mr. Rutter look ill, Todd?" he continued, picking up the thread of
the talk where he had left it. "He wasn't very well when I left."
"No, sah,--neber see him look better. Been up a li'l' late I
reckon,--Marse Harry mos' gen'ally is a li'l' mite late, sah--" Todd
chuckled. "But dat ain't nuthin' to dese gemmans. But he sho' do wanter
see ye. Maybe he stayed all night at Mister Seymour's. If he did an' he
yered de rumpus dese rapscallions kicked up--yes--dat's you I'm talkin'
to"--and he looked toward the dogs--"he'll be roun' yere 'fo' ye gits
fru yo' bre'kfus'. Dey do say as how Marse Harry's mighty sweet in dat
quarter. Mister Langdon Willits's snoopin' roun' too, but Miss Kate
ain't got no use fer him. He ain't quality dey say."
His master let him run on; Aunt Jemima was Todd's only outlet during his
master's absence, and as this was sometimes clogged by an uplifted
broom, he made the best use he could of the opportunities when he and
his master were alone. When "comp'ny" were present he was as
close-mouthed as a clam and as noiseless as a crab.
"Who told you all this gossip, Todd?" exclaimed St. George with a smile,
laying down his knife and fork.
"Ain't nary one tol' me--ain't no use bein' tol'. All ye got to do is to
keep yo' eyes open. Be a weddin' dar 'fo' spring. Look out, sah--dat
shell's still a-sizzlin'. Mo' coffee, sah? Wait till I gits some hot
waffles--won't take a minute!" and he was out of the room and downstairs
before his master could answer.
Hardly had he slammed the kitchen door behind him when the clatter and
stamp of a horse's hoofs were heard Outside, followed by an impatient
rat-a-tat-tat on the knocker.
The boy dropped his dishes: "Fo' Gawd, dat's Mister Harry!" he cried as
he started on a run for the door. "Don't nobody bang de do' down like
dat but him."
A slender, thoroughly graceful young fellow of twenty-one or two, booted
and spurred, his dark eyes flashing, his face tingling with the sting of
the early morning air, dashed past the obsequious darky and burst into
Temple's presence with the rush of a north-west breeze. He had ridden
ten miles since he vaulted into the saddle, had never drawn rein uphill
or down, and neither he nor the thoroughbred pawing the mud outside had
turned a hair.
"Hello, Uncle George!" Temple, as has been said, was Uncle George to
every girl and youth in Kennedy Square.
"Why, Harry!" He had sprung from his seat, napkin in hand and had him by
both shoulders, looking into his eyes as if he wanted to hug him, and
would the first thing he knew. "Where are you from--Moorlands? What a
rollicking chap you are, and you look so well and handsome, you dog! And
now tell me of your dear mother and your father. But first down with
you--here--right opposite--always your place, my dear Harry. Todd,
another shell of oysters and more waffles and coffee--everything, Todd,
and blazing hot: two shells, Todd--the sight of you, Harry, makes me
ravenous again, and I could have eaten my boots, when I got home an hour
ago, I was so hungry. But the mare"--here he moved to the window--"is
she all right? Spitfire, I suppose--you'd kill anything else, you
rascal! But you haven't tied her!"
"No--never tie her--break her heart if I did. Todd, hang up this coat
and hat in the hall before you go."
"That's what you said of that horse you bought of Hampson--ran away,
didn't he?" persisted his host, his eyes on the mare, which had now
"Yes, and broke his leg. But Spitfire's all right--she'll stand. Where
will I sit--here? And now what kind of a time did you have, and who were
"Clayton, Doctor Teackle, and the judge."
"And how many ducks did you get?" and he dropped into his chair.
"Twenty-one," answered St. George, dry-washing his white shapely hands,
as he took his seat--a habit of his when greatly pleased.
"No--five redheads and a mallard."
"Where did you put up?" echoed Harry, loosening his riding-jacket to
give his knife and fork freer play.
"I spent a week at Tom Coston's and a week at Craddock. Another lump of
The boy laughed gently: "Lazy Tom's?"
"Lazy Tom's--and the best-hearted fellow in the world. They're going to
make him a judge, they say and--"
"--What of--peach brandy? No cream in mine, Todd."
"No--you scurrilous dog--of the Common Court," retorted St. George,
looking at him over the top of his cup. "Very good lawyer is Tom--got
horse sense and can speak the truth--make a very good judge."
Again Harry laughed--rather a forced laugh this time, as if he were
trying to make himself agreeable but with so anxious a ring through it
that Todd busied himself about the table before going below for fresh
supplies, making excuse of collecting the used dishes. If there were to
be any revelations concerning the situation at the Seymour house, he did
not intend to miss any part of them.
"Better put Mrs. Coston on the bench and set Tom to rocking the cradle,"
said the young man, reaching for the plate of corn pone. "She's a
thoroughbred if ever I saw one, and does credit to her blood. But go
on--tell me about the birds. Are they flying high?--and the duck
blinds; have they fixed them up? They were all going to pot when I was
"Birds out of range, most of them--hard work getting what I did. As to
the blinds, they are still half full of water--got soaking wet trying to
use one. I shot most of mine from the boat just as the day broke," and
then followed a full account of what the party had bagged, with details
of every day's adventures. This done, St. George pushed back his chair
and faced the young man.
"And now you take the witness-stand, sir--look me in the eyes, put your
hand on your fob-pocket and tell me the truth. Todd says you have been
here every day for a week looking as if you had lost your last
fip-penny-bit and wild to see me. What has happened?"
"Todd has a vivid imagination." He turned in his seat, stretched out his
hand, and catching one of the dogs by the nose rubbed his head
"Go on--all of it--no dodging the king's counsellor. What's the matter?"
The young man glanced furtively at Todd, grabbed another dog, rubbed
their two ears together in play, and in a lowered voice, through which a
tinge of sadness was only too apparent, murmured:
"Miss Kate--we've had a falling out."
St. George lowered his head suddenly and gave a low whistle:--"Falling
Again young Rutter glanced at Todd, whose back was turned, but whose
ears were stretched to splitting point. His host nodded understandingly.
"There, Todd--that will do; now go down and get your breakfast. No more
waffles, tell Aunt Jemima. Bring the pipes over here and throw on
another log ... that's right." A great sputtering of sparks followed--a
spider-legged, mahogany table was wheeled into place, and the dejected
darky left the room for the regions below.
"So you two have had a quarrel! Oh, Harry!--when will you learn to think
twice before you speak? Whose fault was it?" sighed St. George, filling
the bowl of his pipe with his slender fingers, slowly tucking in each
shred and grain.
"What did you say?" (Puff-puff.)
"Nothing--I couldn't. She came in and saw it all." The boy had his
elbows on the table now, his cheeks sunk in his hands.
St. George looked up: "Drunk, were you?"
"At Mrs. Cheston's ball last week."
"Have you seen her since?"
"No--she won't let me come near her. Mr. Seymour passed me yesterday and
hardly spoke to me."
St. George canted his chair and zigzagged it toward the blazing hearth;
then he said thoughtfully, without looking at the young man:
"Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish! Have you told your father?"
"No--he wouldn't understand."
"And I know you didn't tell your mother." This came with the tone of
"No--and don't you. Mother is daft on the subject. If she had her way,
father would never put a drop of wine on the table. She says it is
ruining the county--but that's mother's way."
St. George stooped over, fondled one of the dogs for a moment--two had
followed Todd out of the room--settled back in his chair again, and
still looking into the fire, said slowly:
"Bad business--bad business, Harry! Kate is as proud as Lucifer and
dislikes nothing on earth so much as being made conspicuous. Tell me
exactly what happened."
"Well, there isn't anything to tell," replied the young fellow, raising
his head and leaning back in his chair, his face the picture of despair.
"We were all in the library and the place was boiling-hot, and they had
two big bowls, one full of eggnog and the other full of apple-toddy: and
the next thing I knew I was out in the hall and met Kate on the stairs.
She gave a little smothered scream, and moaned--'Oh, Harry!--and you
promised me!'--and then she put her hands to her face, as if to shut me
out of her sight. That sobered me somewhat, and after I got out on the
porch into the night air and had pulled myself together, I tried to find
her and apologize, but she had gone home, although the ball wasn't half
"Then this was not the first time?" He was still at the hot coals, both
hands outfanned, to screen his face from the blaze.
"No--I'm sorry to say it wasn't. I told her I would never fail her
again, and she forgave me, but I don't know what she'll do now. She
never forgives anybody who breaks his word--she's very queer about it.
That's what I came to see you about. I haven't slept much nights,
thinking it over, and so I had the mare saddled, as soon as it got
light, hoping you would be home. Todd thought you might be--he saw Dr.
Teackle's Joe, who said you were all coming to-day."
Again there was a long pause, during which Temple continued to study the
coals through his open fingers, the young man sitting hunched up in his
chair, his handsome head dropped between his shoulders, his glossy
chestnut hair, a-frouze with his morning ride, fringing his collar
"Harry," said St. George, knocking the ashes slowly from his pipe on the
edge of the fender, and turning his face for the first time toward
him,--"didn't I hear something before I went away about a ball at your
father's--or a dance--or something, when your engagement was to be
The boy nodded.
"And was it not to be something out of the ordinary?" he continued,
looking at the boy from under his eyelids--"Teackle certainly told me
so--said that your mother had already begun to get the house in order--"
Again Harry nodded--as if he had been listening to an indictment, every
word of which he knew was true.
St. George roused himself and faced his guest: "And yet you took this
time, Harry, to--"
The boy threw up both hands in protest:
"Don't!--DON'T! Uncle George! It's the ball that makes it all the worse.
That's why I've got no time to lose; that's why I've haunted this place
waiting for you to get back. Mother will be heart-broken if she finds
out and I don't know what father would do."
St. George laid his empty pipe on the table and straightened his body in
the chair until his broad shoulders filled the back. Then his brow
darkened; his indignation was getting the better of him.
"I don't know what has come over you young fellows, Harry!" he at last
broke out, his eyes searching the boy's. "You don't seem to know how to
live. You've got to pull a shoat out of a trough to keep it from
overeating itself, but you shouldn't be obliged to pull a gentleman away
from his glass. Good wine is good food and should be treated as such. My
cellar is stocked with old Madeira--some port--some fine sherries--so is
your father's. Have you ever seen him abuse them?--have you ever seen
Mr. Horn or Mr. Kennedy, or any of our gentlemen around here, abuse
them? It's scandalous, Harry! damnable! I love you, my son--love you in
a way you know nothing of, but you've got to stop this sort of thing
right off. And so have these young roysterers you associate with. It's
getting worse every day. I don't wonder your dear mother feels about it
as she does. But she's always been that way, and she's always been right
about it, too, although I didn't use to think so." This last came with a
lowered voice and a deep, indrawn sigh, and for the moment checked the
flow of his wrath.
Harry hung his head still lower, but he did not attempt to defend
"Who else were making vulgarians of themselves at Mrs. Cheston's?" St.
George continued in a calmer tone, stretching his shapely legs until the
soles of his shoes touched the fender.
"Mark Gilbert, Tom Murdoch, Langdon Willits, and--"
"Willits, eh?--Well, I should expect it of Willits. He wasn't born a
gentleman--that is, his grandfather wasn't a gentleman--married his
overseer's daughter, if I remember right:--but you come of the best
blood in the State,--egad!--none better! You have something to
maintain--some standard to keep up. A Rutter should never be found
guilty of anything that would degrade his name. You seem to forget
that--you--damn me, Harry!--when I think of it all--and of Kate--my
sweet, lovely Kate,--and how you have made her suffer--for she loves
you--no question of that--I feel like wringing your neck! What the devil
do you mean, Sir?" He was up on his feet now, pacing the room, the dogs
following his every movement with their brown agate eyes, their soft,
silky ears straightening and falling.
So far the young fellow had not moved nor had he offered a word in
defence. He knew his Uncle George--better let him blow it all out, then
the two could come together. At last he said in a contrite tone--his
"Don't scold me, Uncle George. I've scolded myself enough--just say
something to help me. I can't give Kate up--I'd sooner die. I've always
made a fool of myself--maybe I'll quit doing it after this. Tell me how
I can straighten this out. She won't see me--maybe her father won't. He
and my father--so Tom Warfield told me yesterday--had a talk at the
club. What they said I don't know, but Mr. Seymour was pretty mad--that
is, for him--so Tom thought from the way he spoke."
"And he ought to be mad--raging mad! He's only got one daughter, and she
the proudest and loveliest thing on earth, and that one he intends to
give to you"--Harry looked up in surprise--"Yes--he told me so. And
here you are breaking her heart before he has announced it to the world.
It's worse than damnable, Harry--it's a CRIME!"
For some minutes he continued his walk, stopping to look out of the
window, his eyes on the mare who, with head up and restless eyes, was on
the watch for her master's return; then he picked up his pipe from the
table, threw himself into his chair again, and broke into one of his
"I reckon it's because you're twenty, Harry, I forgot that. Hot
blood--hot temper,--madcap dare-devil that you are--not a grain of
common-sense. But what can you expect?--I was just like you at your age.
Come, now, what shall we do first?"
The young fellow rose and a smile of intense relief crept over his face.
He had had many such overhaulings from his uncle, and always with this
ending. Whenever St. George let out one of those big, spontaneous,
bubbling laughs straight from his heart, the trouble, no matter how
serious, was over. What some men gained by anger and invective St.
George gained by good humor, ranging from the faint smile of toleration
to the roar of merriment. One reason why he had so few enemies--none,
practically--was that he could invariably disarm an adversary with a
laugh. It was a fine old blade that he wielded; only a few times in his
life had he been called upon to use any other--when some under-dog was
maltreated, or his own good name or that of a friend was traduced, or
some wrong had to be righted--then his face would become as hot steel
and there would belch out a flame of denunciation that would scorch and
blind in its intensity. None of these fiercer moods did the boy
know;--what he knew was his uncle's merry side--his sympathetic, loving
side,--and so, following up his advantage, he strode across the room,
settled down on the arm of his uncle's chair, and put his arm about his
"Won't you go and see her, please?" he pleaded, patting his back,
"What good will that do? Hand me a match, Harry."
"Everything--that's what I came for."
"Not with Kate! She isn't a child--she's a woman," he echoed back
between the puffs, his indignation again on the rise. "And she is
different from the girls about here," he added, tossing the burned match
in the fire. "When she once makes up her mind it stays made up."
"Don't let her make it up! Go and see her and tell her how I love her
and how miserable I am. Tell her I'll never break another promise to her
as long as I live. Nobody ever holds out against you. Please, Uncle
George! I'll never come to you for anything else in the world if you'll
help me this time. And I won't drink another drop of anything you don't
want me to drink--I don't care what father or anybody else says. Oh,
you've GOT to go to her!--I can't stand it any longer! Every time I
think of Kate hidden away over there where I can't get at her, it drives
me wild. I wouldn't ask you to go if I could go myself and talk it out
with her--but she won't let me near her--I've tried, and tried; and Ben
says she isn't at home, and knows he lies when he says it! You will go,
The smoke from his uncle's pipe was coming freer now--most of it
escaping up the throat of the chimney with a gentle swoop.
"When do you want me to go?" He had already surrendered. When had he
ever held out when a love affair was to be patched up?
"Now, right away."
"No,--I'll go to-night,--she will be at home then," he said at last, as
if he had just made up his mind, the pipe having helped--"and do you
come in about nine and--let me know when you are there, or--better
still, wait in the hall until I come for you."
"But couldn't I steal in while you are talking?"
"No--you do just as I tell you. Not a sound out of you, remember, until
I call you."
"But how am I to know? She might go out the other door and--"
"You'll know when I come for you."
"And you think it will be all right, don't you?" he pleaded. "You'll
tell her what an awful time I've had, won't you, Uncle George?"
"Yes, every word of it."
"And that I haven't slept a wink since--"
"Yes--and that you are going to drown yourself and blow your head off
and swallow poison. Now off with you and let me think how I am to begin
straightening out this idiotic mess. Nine o'clock, remember, and in the
hall until I come for you."
"Yes--nine o'clock! Oh!--you good Uncle George! I'll never forget you
for it," and with a grasp of St. George's hand and another outpouring of
gratitude, the young fellow swung wide the door, clattered down the
steps, threw his leg over Spitfire, and dashed up the street.
If Kate's ancestors had wasted any part of their substance in too lavish
a hospitality, after the manner of the spendthrift whose extravagances
were recounted in the preceding chapter, there was nothing to indicate
it in the home of their descendants. No loose shutters, crumbling
chimneys, or blistered woodwork defaced the Seymour mansion:--the touch
of the restorer was too apparent. No sooner did a shutter sag or a hinge
give way than away it went to the carpenter or the blacksmith; no sooner
did a banister wabble, or a table crack, or an andiron lose a leg, than
up came somebody with a kit, or a bag, or a box of tools, and they were
as good as new before you could wink your eye. Indeed, so great was the
desire to keep things up that it was only necessary (so a wag said) to
scratch a match on old Seymour's front door to have its panels repainted
the next morning.
And then its seclusion:--while its neighbors--the Temple mansion among
them--had been placed boldly out to the full building line where they
could see and be seen, the Seymours, with that spirit of aloofness which
had marked the family for generations, had set their dwelling back ten
paces, thrown up a hedge of sweet-smelling box to screen the inmates
from the gaze of passers-by, planted three or four big trees as
protection for the upper windows, and, to insure still greater privacy,
had put up a swinging wooden gate, kept shut by a ball and chain, its
clang announcing the entrance of each and every visitor.
And this same spirit was manifest the moment you stepped into the wide
hall, glanced at the old family portraits marching steadily, one after
another, up the side of the spacious stairs (revarnished every other
year)--entered the great drawing-room hung with yellow satin and
decorated with quaint mirrors, and took a scat in one of the
all-embracing arm-chairs, there to await the arrival of either the
master of the house or his charming daughter.
If it were the master to whom you wished to pay your respects, one
glance at the Honorable Howard Douglass Seymour would have convinced you
that he was precisely the kind of man who should have had charge of so
well-ordered a home: so well brushed was he--so clean-shaven--so
immaculately upholstered--the two points of his collar pinching his
cheeks at the same precise angle; his faultless black stock fitting to
perfection, the lapels of his high-rolled coat matching exactly. And
then the correct parting of the thin gray hair and the two little gray
brush-tails of lovelocks that were combed in front of his ears, there to
become a part of the two little dabs of gray whiskers that stretched
from his temples to his bleached cheekbones. Yes--a most carefully
preserved, prim, and well-ordered person was Kate's father.
As to the great man's career, apart from his service in the legislature,
which won him his title, there was no other act of his life which marked
him apart from his fellows. Suffice it to say that he was born a
gentleman without a penny to his name; that he married Kate's mother
when she was twenty and he forty (and here is another story, and a sad
one)--she the belle of her time--and sole heir to the estate of her
grandfather, Captain Hugh Barkeley, the rich ship-owner--and that the
alliance had made him a gentleman of unlimited leisure, she, at her
death, having left all her property to her daughter Kate, with the
Honorable Prim as custodian.
And this trust, to his credit be it said--for Seymour was of Scotch
descent, a point in his favor with old Captain Barkeley, who was Scotch
on his mother's side, and, therefore, somewhat canny--was most
religiously kept, he living within his ample means--or Kate's, which was
the same thing--discharging the duties of father, citizen, and friend,
with the regularity of a clock--so many hours with his daughter, so many
hours at his club, so many hours at his office; the intermediate minutes
being given over to resting, dressing, breakfasting, dining, sleeping,
and no doubt praying; the precise moment that marked the beginning and
ending of each task having been fixed years in advance by this most
exemplary, highly respectable, and utterly colorless old gentleman of
That this dry shell of a man could be the father of our spontaneous
lovely Kate was one of the things that none of the younger people around
Kennedy Square could understand--but then few of them had known her
beautiful mother with her proud step and flashing eyes.
But it is not the punctilious, methodical Prim whom St. George wishes to
see to-night; nor does he go through any of the formalities customary to
the house. There is no waiting until old Ben, the family butler in
snuff-colored coat and silver buttons, shuffles upstairs or into the
library, or wherever the inmates were to be found, there to announce
"Massa George Temple." Nor did he send in his card, or wait until his
knock was answered. He simply swung back the gate until the old chain
and ball, shocked at his familiarity, rattled itself into a rage, strode
past the neatly trimmed, fragrant box, pushed open the door--no front
door was ever locked in the daytime in Kennedy Square, and few at
night--and halting at the bottom step, called up the silent stairs in a
voice that was a joyous greeting in itself:
"Kate, you darling! come down as quick as your dear little feet will
carry you! It's Uncle George, do you hear?--or shall I come up and bring
you down in my arms, you bunch of roses? It won't be the first time."
The first time was when she was a year old.
"Oh!--is that you, Uncle George? Yes,--just as soon as I do up my back
hair." The voice came from the top of the stairs--a lark's voice singing
down from high up. "Father's out and--"
"Yes--I know he's out; I met him on his way to the club. Hurry now--I've
got the best news in the world for you."
"Yes--in a minute."
He knew her minutes, and how long they could be, and in his impatience
roamed about the wide hall examining the old English engravings and
colored prints decorating the panels until he heard her step overhead
and looking up watched her cross the upper hall, her well-poised,
aristocratic head high in air, her full, well-rounded, blossoming body
imaged in the loose embroidered scarf wound about her sloping shoulders.
Soon he caught the wealth of her blue-black hair in whose folds her
negro mammy had pinned a rose that matched the brilliancy of her cheeks,
two stray curls wandering over her neck; her broad forehead, with
clearly marked eyebrows, arching black lashes shading lustrous,
slumbering eyes; and as she drew nearer, her warm red lips, exquisite
teeth, and delicate chin, and last, the little feet that played hide and
seek beneath her quilted petticoat: a tall, dark, full-blooded, handsome
girl of eighteen with an air of command and distinction tempered by a
certain sweet dignity and delicious coquetry--a woman to be loved even
when she ruled and to be reverenced even when she trifled.
She had reached the floor now, and the two arm in arm, he patting her
hand, she laughing beside him, had entered the small library followed by
the old butler bringing another big candelabra newly lighted.
"It's so good of you to come," she cried, her face alight with the joy
of seeing him--"and you look so happy and well--your trip down the bay
has done you a world of good. Ben says the ducks you sent father are the
best we have had this winter. Now tell me, dear Uncle George"--she had
him in one of the deep arm-chairs by this time, with a cushion behind
his shoulders--"I am dying to hear all about it."
"Don't you 'dear Uncle George' me until you've heard what I've got to
"But you said you had the best news in the world for me," she laughed,
looking at him from under her lashes.
"So I have."
"What is it?"
The girl's face clouded and her lips quivered. Then she sat bolt
"I won't hear a word about him. He's broken his promise to me and I will
never trust him again. If I thought you'd come to talk about Harry, I
wouldn't have come down."
St. George lay back in his chair, shrugged his shoulders, stole a look
at her from beneath his bushy eyebrows, and said with an assumed
dignity, a smile playing about his lips:
"All right, off goes his head--exit the scoundrel. Much as I could do to
keep him out of Jones Falls this morning, but of course now it's all
over we can let Spitfire break his neck. That's the way a gentleman
should die of love--and not be fished out of a dirty stream with his
clothes all bespattered with mud."
"But he won't die for love. He doesn't know what love means or he
wouldn't behave as he does. Do you know what really happened, Uncle
George?" Her brown eyes were flashing, her cheeks aflame with her
"Oh, I know exactly what happened. Harry told me with the tears running
down his cheeks. It was dreadful--INEXCUSABLE--BARBAROUS! I've been that
way myself--tumbled half-way down these same stairs before you were born
and had to be put to bed, which accounts for the miserable scapegrace I
am to-day." His face was in a broad smile, but his voice never wavered.
Kate looked at him and put out her hand. "You never did--I won't believe
a word of it."
"Ask your father, my dear. He helped carry me upstairs, and Ben pulled
off my boots. Oh, it was most disgraceful! I'm just beginning to live it
down," and he reached over and patted the girl's cheek, his hearty laugh
ringing through the room.
Kate was smiling now--her Uncle George was always irresistible when he
was like this.
"But Harry isn't you," she pouted.
"ISN'T ME!--why I was ten times worse! He's only twenty-one and I was
twenty-five. He's got four years the better of me in which to reform."
"He'll NEVER be like you--you never broke a promise in your life. He
gave me his word of honor he would never get--yes--I'm just going to say
it--drunk--again: yes--that's the very word--DRUNK! I don't care--I
won't have it! I won't have anything to do with anybody who breaks his
promise, and who can't keep sober. My father was never so in his life,
and Harry shall never come near me again if he--"
"Hold on!--HOLD ON! Oh, what an unforgiving minx! You Seymours are all
like tinder boxes--your mother was just like you and so was--"
"Well, not father," she bridled, with a toss of her head.
St. George smiled queerly--Prim was one of his jokes. "Your father, my
dear Kate, has the milk of human kindness in his veins, not red fighting
blood. That makes a whole lot of difference. Now listen to me:--you love
"No! I DESPISE him! I told him so!" She had risen from her seat and had
moved to the mantel, where she stood looking into the fire, her back
"Don't you interrupt me, you blessed girl--just you listen to Uncle
George for a minute. You DO love Harry--you can't help it--nobody can.
If you had seen him this morning you would have thrown your arms around
him in a minute--I came near doing it myself. Of course he's wild,
reckless, and hot-headed like all the Rutters and does no end of foolish
things, but you wouldn't love him if he was different. He's just like
Spitfire--never keeps still a minute--restless, pawing the ground, or
all four feet in the air--then away she goes! You can't reason with
her--you don't wish to; you get impatient when she chafes at the bit
because you are determined she shall keep still, but if you wanted her
to go like the wind and she couldn't, you'd be more dissatisfied than
ever. The pawing and chafing is of no matter; it is her temperament that
counts. So it is with Harry. He wouldn't be the lovable, dashing,
high-spirited young fellow he is if he didn't kick over the traces once
in a while and break everything to pieces--his promises among them. And
it isn't his fault--it's the Spanish and Dutch blood in his veins--the
blood of that old hidalgo and his Dutch ancestor, De Ruyter--that crops
out once in a while. Harry would be a pirate and sweep the Spanish main
if he had lived in those days, instead of being a gentleman who values
nothing in life so much as the woman he loves."
He had been speaking to her back all this time, the girl never moving,
the outlines of her graceful body in silhouette against the blaze.
"Then why doesn't he prove it?" she sighed. She liked old hidalgos and
had no aversion to pirates if they were manly and brave about their
"He does--and he lives up to his standard except in this one failing for
which I am truly sorry. Abominable I grant you--but there are many
things which are worse."
"I can't think of anything worse," she echoed with a deep sigh, walking
slowly toward him and regaining her chair, all her anger gone, only the
pain in her heart left. "I don't want Harry to be like the others, and
he can't live their lives if he's going to be my husband. I want him to
be different,--to be big and fine and strong,--like the men who have
made the world better for their having lived in it--that old De Ruyter,
for instance, that his father is always bragging about--not a weak,
foolish boy whom everybody can turn around their fingers. Some of my
girl friends don't mind what the young men do, or how often they break
their word to them so that they are sure of their love. I do, and I
won't have it, and I have told Harry so over and over again. It's such a
cowardly thing--not to be man enough to stand up and say 'No--I won't
drink with you!' That's why I say I can't think of his doing anything
St. George fixed his eyes upon her. He had thought he knew the girl's
heart, but this was a revelation to him. Perhaps her sorrow, like that
of her mother, was making a well-rounded woman of her.
"Oh, I can think of a dozen things worse," he rejoined with some
positiveness. "Harry might lie; Harry might be a coward; Harry might
stand by and hear a friend defamed; Harry might be discourteous to a
woman, or allow another man to be--a thing he'd rather die than permit.
None of these things could he be or do. I'd shut my door in his face if
he did any one of them, and so should you. And then he is so penitent
when he has done anything wrong. 'It was my fault--I would rather hang
myself than lose Kate. I haven't slept a wink, Uncle George.' And he was
so handsome when he came in this morning--his big black eyes flashing,
his cheeks like two roses--so straight and strong, and so graceful and
wholesome and lovable. I wouldn't care, if I were you, if he did slip
once in a while--not any more than I would if Spitfire stumbled. And
then again"--here he moved his chair close to her own so he could get
his hand on hers the easier--"if Spitfire does stumble, there is the
bridle to pull her up, but for this she might break her neck. That's
where you come in, Kate. Harry's in your hands--has been since the hour
he loved you. Don't let him go headlong to the devil--and he will if you
turn him loose without a bridle."
"I can't do him any good--he won't mind anything I say. And what
dependence can I place on him after this?" her voice sank to a tone of
helpless tenderness. "It isn't his being drunk altogether; he will
outgrow that, perhaps, as you say you did, and be man enough to say no
next time; but it's because he broke his promise to me. That he will
never outgrow! Oh, it's wicked!--wicked for him to treat me so. I have
never done anything he didn't want me to do! and he has no right to--Oh,
Uncle George, it's--"
St. George leaned nearer and covered her limp fingers with his own
"Try him once more, Kate. Let me send him to you. It will be all over in
a minute and you will be so happy--both of you! Nothing like making up--
it really pays for the pain of a quarrel."
The outside door shut gently and there was a slight movement in the hall
behind them, but neither of them noticed it. Kate sat with her head up,
her mind at work, her eyes watching the firelight. It was her future she
was looking into. She had positive, fixed ideas of what her station in
life as a married woman should be;--not what her own or Harry's birth
and position could bring her. With that will-o'-the-wisp she had no
sympathy. Her grandfather in his early days had been a plain, seafaring
man even if his ancestry did go back to the time of James I, and her
mother had been a lady, and that too without the admixture of a single
drop of the blood of any Kennedy Square aristocrat. That Harry was well
born and well bred was as it should be, but there was something
more;--the man himself. That was why she hesitated. Yes--it WOULD "all
be over in a minute," just as Uncle George said, but when would the next
break come? And then again there was her mother's life with all the
misery that a broken promise had caused her. Uncle George was not the
only young gallant who had been put to bed in her grandfather's house.
Her mother had loved too--just as much as she loved Harry--loved with
her whole soul--until grandpa Barkeley put his foot down.
St. George waited in silence as he read her mind. Breaches between most
of the boys and girls were easily patched up--a hearty cry, an
outstretched hand--"I am so sorry," and they were in each other's arms.
Not so with Kate. Her reason, as well as her heart, had to be satisfied.
This was one of the things that made her different from all the other
girls about her, and this too was what had given her first place in the
affections and respect of all who knew her. Her heart he saw was
uppermost to-night, but reason still lurked in the background.
"What do you think made him do it again?" she murmured at last in a
voice barely audible, her fingers tightening in his palm. "He knows how
I suffer and he knows too WHY I suffer. Oh, Uncle George!--won't you
please talk to him! I love him so, and I can't marry him if he's like
this. I can't!--_I_ CAN'T!"
A restrained smile played over St. George's face. The tide was setting
"It won't do a bit of good," he said calmly, smothering his joy. "I've
talked to him until I'm tired, and the longer I talk the more wild he is
to see you. Now it's your turn and there's no time to lose. I'll have
him here in five minutes," and he glanced at the clock. She raised her
hand in alarm:
"I don't want him yet. You must see him first--you must--"
"No, I won't see him first, and I'm not going to wait a minute. Talk to
him yourself; put your arms around him and tell him everything you have
told me--now--to-night. I'm going for him," and he sprang to his feet.
"No!--you must not! You SHALL not!" she cried, clutching nervously at
his arm, but he was out of the room before she could stop him.
In the silent hall, hat in hand, his whole body tense with expectancy,
stood Harry. He had killed time by walking up and down the long strip of
carpet between the front door and the staircase, measuring his nervous
steps to the length of the pattern, his mind distracted by his fears for
the outcome--his heart thumping away at his throat, a dull fright
gripping him when he thought of losing her altogether.
St. George's quick step, followed by his firm clutch of the inside knob,
awoke him to consciousness. He sprang forward to catch his first word.
"Can I go in?" he stammered.
St. George grabbed him by the shoulder, wheeled him around, and faced
"Yes, you reprobate, and when you get in go down on your knees and beg
her pardon, and if I ever catch you causing her another heartache I'll
break your damned neck!--do you hear?"
With the shutting of the swinging gate the wily old diplomat regained
his normal good-humored poise, his face beaming, his whole body tingling
at his success. He knew what was going on behind the closed curtains,
and just how contrite and humble the boy would be, and how Kate would
scold and draw herself up--proud duchess that she was--and how Harry
would swear by the nine gods, and an extra one if need be--and then
there would come a long, long silence, broken by meaningless,
half-spoken words--and then another silence--so deep and absorbing that
a full choir of angels might have started an anthem above their heads
and neither of them would have heard a word or note.
And so he kept on his way, picking his steps between the moist places in
the path to avoid soiling his freshly varnished boots; tightening the
lower button of his snug-fitting plum-colored coat as a bracing to his
waist-line; throwing open the collar of his overcoat the wider to give
his shoulders the more room--very happy--very well satisfied with
himself, with the world, and with everybody who lived in it.
Moorlands was ablaze!
From the great entrance gate flanked by moss-stained brick posts capped
with stone balls, along the avenue of oaks to the wide portico leading
to the great hall and spacious rooms, there flared one continuous burst
of light. On either side of the oak-bordered driveway, between the
tree-trunks, crackled torches of pine knots, the glow of their curling
flames bringing into high relief the black faces of innumerable field-
hands from the Rutter and neighboring plantations, lined up on either
side of the gravel road--teeth and eyeballs flashing white against the
blackness of the night. Under the porches hung festoons of lanterns of
every conceivable form and color, while inside the wide baronial hall,
and in the great drawing-room with the apartments beyond, the light of
countless candles, clustered together in silver candelabras, shed a soft
glow over the groups of waiting guests.
To-night Colonel Talbot Rutter of Moorlands, direct descendant of the
house of De Ruyter, with an ancestry dating back to the Spanish
Invasion, was to bid official welcome to a daughter of the house of
Seymour, equally distinguished by flood and field in the service of its
king. These two--God be thanked--loved each other, and now that the
young heir to Moorlands was to bring home his affianced bride, soon to
become his wedded wife, no honor could be too great, no expense too
lavish, no welcome too joyful.
Moreover, that this young princess of the blood might be accorded all
the honors due her birth, lineage, and rank, the colonel's own
coach-and-four, with two postilions and old Matthew on the box--twenty
years in the service--his whip tied with forget-me-nots, the horses'
ears streaming with white ribbons--each flank as smooth as satin and
each panel bright as a mirror--had been trundled off to Kennedy Square,
there to receive the fairest of all her daughters, together with such
other members of her royal suite--including His Supreme Excellency the
Honorable Prim--not forgetting, of course, Kate's old black mammy,
Henny, who was as much a part of the fair lady's belongings when she
went afield as her ostrich-plume fan, her white gloves, or the wee
slippers that covered her enchanting feet.
Every detail of harness, wheel, and brake--even the horn itself--had
passed under the colonel's personal supervision; Matthew on the box
straight as a hitching-post and bursting with pride, reins gathered,
whip balanced, the leaders steady and the wheel horses in line. Then the
word had been given, and away they had swept round the circle and so on
down the long driveway to the outer gate and Kennedy Square. Ten miles
an hour were the colonel's orders and ten miles an hour must Matthew
make, including the loading and unloading of his fair passenger and her
companions, or there would be the devil to pay on his return.
And the inside of the house offered no less a welcome. Drawn up in the
wide hall, under the direct command of old Alec, the head butler, were
the house servants;--mulatto maids in caps, snuff-colored second butlers
in livery, jet-black mammies in new bandannas and white aprons--all in a
flutter of excitement, and each one determined to get the first glimpse
of Marse Harry's young lady, no matter at what risk.
Alec himself was a joy to look upon--eyeballs and teeth gleaming, his
face one wide, encircling smile. Marse Harry was the apple of his eye,
and had been ever since the day of his birth. He had carried him on his
back when a boy; had taught him to fish and hunt and to ride to hounds;
had nursed him when he fell ill at the University in his college days,
and would gladly have laid down his life for him had any such necessity
arisen. To-night, in honor of the occasion, he was rigged out in a new
bottle-green coat with shiny brass buttons, white waistcoat, white
gloves three sizes too big for him, and a huge white cravat flaring out
almost to the tips of his ears. Nothing was too good for Alec--so his
mistress thought--and for the best of reasons. Not only was he the ideal
servant of the old school, but he was the pivot on which the whole
establishment moved. If a particular brand or vintage was needed, or a
key was missing, or did a hair trunk, or a pair of spurs, or last week's
Miscellany, go astray--or even were his mistress's spectacles
mislaid--Alec could put his hand upon each and every item in so short a
space of time that the loser was convinced the old man had hidden them
on purpose, to enjoy their refinding. Moorlands without old Alec would
hive been a wheel without a hub.
As a distinct feature of all these preparations--and this was the best
part of the programme--Harry was to meet Kate at the outer gate
supported by half a dozen of his young friends and hers--Dr. Teackle,
Mark Gilbert, Langdon Willits, and one or two others--while Mrs.
Rutter, Mrs. Cheston, Mrs. Richard Horn, and a bevy of younger women and
girls were to welcome her with open arms the moment her dainty feet
cleared the coach's step. This was the way princesses of the blood had
been welcomed from time immemorial to palaces and castles high, and this
was the way their beloved Kate was to make entry into the home of her
Soon the flash of the coach lamps was seen outside the far gate. Then
there came the wind of a horn--a rollicking, rolling, gladsome sound,
and in the wink of an eyelid every one was out on the portico straining
their eyes, listening eagerly. A joyous shout now went up from the
negroes lining the fences; from the groups about the steps and along the
"Here she comes!"
The leaders with a swing pranced into view as they cleared the gate
posts. There came a moment's halt at the end of the driveway; a
postilion vaulted down, threw wide the coach door and a young man sprang
in. It was Harry! ... Snap!! Crack!! Toot--toot!!--and they were off
again, heading straight for the waiting group. Another prolonged,
winding note--louder--nearer--one of triumph this time!--a galloping,
circling dash toward the porch crowded with guests--the reining in of
panting leaders--the sudden gathering up of the wheel horses, back on
their haunches--the coach door flung wide and out stepped Kate--
Harry's hand in hers, her old mammy behind, her father last of all.
"Oh, such a lovely drive! and it was so kind of you, dear colonel, to
send for me! Oh, it was splendid! And Matthew galloped most all the
way." She had come as a royal princess, but she was still our Kate. "And
you are all out here to meet me!" Here she kissed Harry's mother--"and
you too, Uncle George--and Sue--Oh, how fine you all look!"--and with a
curtsy and a joyous laugh and a hand-clasp here and there, she bent her
head and stepped into the wide hall under the blaze of the clustered
It was then that they caught their breaths, for no such vision of beauty
had ever before stood in the wide hall of Moorlands, her eyes shining
like two stars above the rosy hue of her cheek; her skin like a shell,
her throat and neck a lily in color and curves. And her poise; her
gladsomeness; her joy at being alive and at finding everybody else
alive; the way she moved and laughed and bent her pretty head; the
ripples of gay laughter and the low-pitched tone of the warm greetings
that fell from her lips!
No wonder Harry was bursting with pride; no wonder Langdon Willits
heaved a deep sigh when he caught the glance that Kate flashed at Harry
and went out on the porch to get a breath of fresh air; no wonder St.
George's heart throbbed as he watched them both and thought how near all
this happiness had come to being wrecked; no wonder the servants tumbled
over each other in their eagerness to get a view of her face and gown,
and no wonder, too, that the proud, old colonel who ruled his house with
a rod of iron, determined for the first time in his life to lay down the
sceptre and give Kate and Harry full sway to do whatever popped into
their two silly heads.
And our young Lochinvar was fully her match in bearing, dress, and
manners,--every inch a prince and every inch a Rutter,--and with such
grace of movement as he stepped beside her, that even punctilious,
outspoken old Mrs. Cheston--who had forgiven him his escapade, and who
was always laughing at what she called the pump-handle shakes of some of
the underdone aristocrats about her, had to whisper to the nearest
guest--"Watch Harry, my dear, if you would see how a thoroughbred
manages his legs and arms when he wishes to do honor to a woman.
Admirable!--charming! No young man of my time ever did better." And
Mrs. Cheston knew, for she had hobnobbed with kings and queens, her
husband having represented his government at the Court of St.
James--which fact, however, never prevented her from calling a spade a
spade; nor was she ever very particular as to what the spade unearthed.
Yes--a very gallant and handsome young man was our prince as he handed
Kate up the stairs on her way to the dressing-room, and looked it in his
pearl-gray coat with buttons of silver, fluffy white silk scarf, high
dog-eared collar, ivory-white waistcoat, and tight-fitting trousers of
nankeen yellow, held close to the pumps with invisible straps. And a
very gallant and handsome young fellow he felt himself to be on this
night of his triumph, and so thought Kate--in fact she had fallen in
love with him over again--and so too did every one of the young girls
who crowded about them, as well as the dominating, erect aristocrat of a
father, and the anxious gentle mother, who worshipped the ground on
which he walked.
Kate had noted every expression that crossed his face, absorbing him in
one comprehensive glance as he stood in the full blaze of the candles,
her gaze lingering on his mouth and laughing eyes and the soft sheen of
his brown hair, its curved-in ends brushing the high velvet collar of
his coat--and so on down his shapely body to his shapely feet. Never had
she seen him so adorable--and he was all her own, and for life!
As for our dear St. George Temple, who had never taken his eyes off
them, he thought they were the goodliest pair the stars ever shone upon,
and this his happiest night. There would be no more stumbling after
this. Kate had the bridle well in hand now; all she needed was a clear
road, and that was ahead of both horse and rider.
"Makes your blood jump in your veins, just to look at them, doesn't it,
Talbot?" cried St. George to Harry's father when Kate
disappeared--laying his hand as he spoke on the shoulder of the man with
whom he had grown up from a boy. "Is there anything so good as the love
of a good woman?--the wise old prophet places her beyond the price of
"Only one thing, St. George--the love of a good man--one like yourself,
you dear old fellow. And why the devil you haven't found that out years
ago is more than I can understand. Here you are my age, and you might
have had a Kate and Harry of your own by this time, and yet you live a
"No, I won't hear you talk so, colonel!" cried a bride of a year. "Uncle
George is never stupid, and he couldn't be old. What would all these
young girls do--what would I have done" (another love affair with St.
George as healer and mender!)--"what would anybody have done without
him? Come, Miss Lavinia--do you hear the colonel abusing Uncle George
because he isn't married? Speak up for him--it's wicked of you, colonel,
to talk so."
Miss Lavinia Clendenning, who was one of St. George's very own, in spite
of her forty-odd years, threw back her head until the feathers in her
slightly gray hair shook defiantly:
"No--I won't say a word for him, Sue. I've given him up forever. He's a
disgrace to everybody who knows him."
"Oh, you renegade!" exclaimed St. George in mock alarm.
"Yes,--a positive disgrace! He'll never marry anybody, Sue, until he
marries me. I've begged him on my knees until I'm tired, to name the
day, and he won't! Just like all you shiftless Marylanders, sir--never
know when to make up your minds."
"But you threw me over, Lavinia, and broke my heart," laughed Temple
with a low bow, his palms flattened against his waistcoat in assumed
"Oh, twenty years ago."
"Oh, my goodness gracious! Of course I threw you over then;--you were
just a baby in arms and I was old enough to be your mother--but now it's
different. I'm dying to get married and nobody wants me. If you were a
Virginian instead of a doubting Marylander, you would have asked me a
hundred times and kept on asking until I gave in. Now it's too late. I
always intended to give in, but you were so stupid you couldn't or
"It's never too late to mend, Lavinia," he prayed with hands extended.
"It's too late to mend you, St. George! You are cracked all over, and as
for me--I'm ready to fall to pieces any minute. I'm all tied up now with
corset laces and stays and goodness knows what else. No--I'm done with
While this merry badinage was going on, the young people crowding the
closer so as not to lose a word, or making room for the constant stream
of fresh arrivals on their way toward the dressing-rooms above, their
eyes now and then searching the top of the stairs in the hope of getting
the first glimpse of Kate, our heroine was receiving the final touches
from her old black mammy. It took many minutes. The curl must be
adjusted, the full skirts pulled out or shaken loose, the rare jewels
arranged before she was dismissed with--"Dah, honey chile, now go-long.
Ain't nary one on 'em ain't pizen hongry for ye--any mos' on 'em 'll
drown derselves 'fo' mawnin' becos dey can't git ye."
She is ready now, Harry beside her, her lace scarf embroidered with pink
rosebuds floating from her lovely shoulders, her satin skirt held firmly
in both hands that she might step the freer, her dainty silk stockings
with the ribbons crossed about her ankles showing below its edge.
But it was the colonel who took possession of her when she reached the
floor of the great hall, and not her father nor her lover.
"No, Harry--stand aside, sir. Out with you! Kate goes in with me!
Seymour, please give your arm to Mrs. Rutter." And with the manner of a
courtier leading a princess into the presence of her sovereign, the Lord
of Moorlands swept our Lady of Kennedy Square into the brilliant
drawing-room crowded with guests.
It was a great ball and it was a great ballroom--in spaciousness,
color, and appointments. No one had ever dreamed of its possibilities
before, although everybody knew it was the largest in the county. The
gentle hostess, with old Alec as head of the pulling-out-and-moving-off
department, had wrought the change. All the chairs, tables, sofas, and
screens, little and big, had either been spirited away or pushed back
against the wall for tired dancers. Over the wide floor was stretched a
linen crash; from the ceiling and bracketed against the white walls,
relieved here and there by long silken curtains of gold-yellow, blazed
clusters of candles, looking for all the world like so many bursting
sky-rockets, while at one end, behind a mass of flowering plants, sat a
quartette of musicians, led by an old darky with a cotton-batting head,
who had come all the way from Philadelphia a-purpose.
Nor had the inner man been forgotten: bowls of hot apple toddy steamed
away in the dining-room; bowls of eggnog frothed away in the library;
ladlings of punch, and the contents of several old cut-glass decanters,
flanked by companies of pipe-stem glasses, were being served in the
dressing-rooms; while relays of hot terrapin, canvas-back duck, sizzling
hot; olio, cold joints; together with every conceivable treatment and
condition of oysters--in scallop shells, on silver platters and in
wooden plates--raw, roasted, fried, broiled, baked, and
stewed--everything in fact that could carry out the colonel's watchword,
"Eat, drink, and be merry," were within the beck and call of each and
And there were to be no interludes of hunger and thirst if the host
could help it. No dull pauses nor recesses, but one continued round,
lasting until midnight, at which hour the final banquet in the
dining-room was to be served, and the great surprise of the evening
reached--the formal announcement of Harry and Kate's engagement,
followed by the opening of the celebrated bottle of the Jefferson 1800
Monticello Madeira, recorked at our young hero's birth.
And it goes without saying that there were no interludes. The fun began
at once, a long line of merry talk and laughter following the wake of
the procession, led by the host and Kate, the colonel signalling at last
to the cotton-batting with the goggle spectacles, who at once struck up
a polka and away they all went, Harry and Kate in the lead, the whole
room in a whirl.
This over and the dancers out of breath, Goggles announced a
quadrille--the colonel and St. George helping to form the sets. Then
followed the schottische, then another polka until everybody was tired
out, and then with one accord the young couples rushed from the hot
room, hazy with the dust of lint from the linen crash, and stampeded for
the cool wide stairs that led from the great hall. For while in summer
the shadows on some vine-covered porch swallowed the lovers, in winter
the stairs were generally the trysting-place--and the top step the one
most sought--because there was nobody behind to see. This was the roost
for which Kate and Harry scampered, and there they intended to sit until
the music struck up again.
"Oh, Kate, you precious darling, how lovely you look!" burst out Harry
for the hundredth time when she had nestled down beside him--"and what a
wonderful gown! I never saw that one before, did I?"
"No--you never have," she panted, her breath gone from her dance and the
dash for the staircase. "It's my dear mother's dress, and her scarf too.
I had very little done to it--only the skirt made wider. Isn't it soft
and rich? Grandpa used to bring these satins from China."
"And the pearls--are they the ones you told me about?" He was adjusting
them to her throat as he spoke--somehow he could not keep his hands from
"Yes--mother's jewels. Father got them out of his strong-box for me this
morning. He wanted me to wear them to-night. He says I can have them all
now. She must have been very beautiful, Harry--and just think, dear--she
was only a few years older than I am when she died. Sometimes when I
wear her things and get to thinking about her, and remember how young
and beautiful she was and how unhappy her life, it seems as if I must be
unhappy myself--somehow as if it were not right to have all this
happiness when she had none." There was a note of infinite pathos in her
voice--a note one always heard when she spoke of her mother. Had Harry
looked deeper into her eyes he might have found the edges of two tears
trembling on their lids.
"She never was as beautiful as you, my darling--nobody ever was--nobody
ever could be!" he cried, ignoring all allusion to her mother. Nothing
else counted with the young fellow to-night--all he knew and cared for
was that Kate was his very own, and that all the world would soon know
"That's because you love me, Harry. You have only to look at her
portrait in father's room to see how exquisite she was. I can never be
like her--never so gracious, so patient, no matter how hard I try."
He put his fingers on her lips: "I won't have you say it. I won't let
anybody say it. I could hardly speak when I saw you in the full light of
the hall. It was so dark in the coach I didn't know how you looked, and
I didn't care; I was so glad to get hold of you. But when your cloak
slipped from your shoulders and you--Oh!--you darling Kate!" His eye
caught the round of her throat and the taper of her lovely arm--"I am
going to kiss you right here--I will--I don't care who--"
She threw up her hands with a little laugh. She liked him the better for
daring, although she was afraid to yield.
"No--NO--Harry! They will see us--don't--you mustn't!"
"Mustn't what! I tell you, Kate, I am going to kiss you--I don't care
what you say or who sees me. It's been a year since I kissed you in the
coach--forty years--now, you precious Kate, what difference does it
make? I will, I tell you--no--don't turn your head away."
She was struggling feebly, her elbow across her face as a shield,
meaning all the time to raise her lips to his, when her eyes fell on the
figure of a young man making his way toward them. Instantly her back
"There's Langdon Willits at the bottom of the stairs talking to Mark
Gilbert," she whispered in dismay. "See--he is coming up. I wonder what
Harry gathered himself together and his face clouded. "I wish he was at
the bottom of the sea. I don't like Willits--I never did. Neither does
Uncle George. Besides, he's in love with you, and he always has been."
"What nonsense, Harry," she answered, opening her fan and waving it
slowly. She knew her lover was right--knew more indeed than her lover
could ever know: she had used all the arts of which she was mistress to
keep Willits from proposing.
"But he IS in love with you," Harry insisted stiffly. "Won't he be
fighting mad, though, when he hears father announce our engagement at
supper?" Then some tone in her voice recalled that night on the sofa
when she still held out against his pleading, and with it came the
thought that while she could be persuaded she could never be driven.
Instantly his voice changed to its most coaxing tones: "You won't dance
with him, will you, Kate darling? I can't bear to see you in anybody
else's arms but my own."
Her hand grasped his wrist with a certain meaning in the pressure.
"Now don't be a goose, Harry. I must be polite to everybody, especially
to-night--and you wouldn't have me otherwise."
"Yes, but not to him."
"But what difference does it make? You are too sensible not to
understand, and I am too happy, anyway, to want to be rude to anybody.
And then you should never be jealous of Langdon Willits."
"Well, then, not a round dance, please, Kate." He dare not oppose her
further. "I couldn't stand a round dance. I won't have his arm touch
you, my darling." And he bent his cheek close to hers.
She looked at him from under her shadowed lids as she had looked at St.
George when she greeted him at the foot of the stairs; a gleam of
coquetry, of allurement, of joy shining through her glances like
delicate antennae searching to feel where her power lay. Should she
venture, as her Uncle George had suggested, to take the reins in her own
hands and guide this restive, mettlesome thoroughbred, or should she
surrender to him? Then a certain mischievous coquetry possessed her.
With a light, bubbling laugh she drew her cheek away.
"Yes, any kind of a dance that he or anybody else wants that I can give
him," she burst out with a coquettish twist of her head, her eyes
brimming with fun.
"But I'm on your card for every single dance," he demanded, his eyes
again flashing. "Look at it--I filled it up myself," and he held up his
own bit of paste-board so she could read the list. "I tell you I won't
have his arm around you!"
"Well, then, he sha'n't touch even the tips of my fingers, you dreadful
Mr. Bluebeard." She had surrendered now. He was never so compelling as
when determined to have his own way. Again her whole manner changed; she
was once more the sweetheart: "Don't let us bother about cards, my
darling, or dances, or anything. Let us talk of how lovely it is to be
together again. Don't you think so, Harry?" and she snuggled the closer
to his arm, her soft cheek against his coat.
Before Harry could answer, young Willits, who had been edging his way up
the stairs two steps at a time, avoiding the skirts of the girls,
reaching over the knees of the men as he clung to the hand-rail, stood
on the step below them.
"It's my next dance, Miss Kate, isn't it?" he asked eagerly, scanning
her face--wondering why she looked so happy.
"What is it to be, Mr. Willits?" she rejoined in perfunctory tones,
glancing at her own blank card hanging to her wrist: he was the last man
in the world she wanted to see at this moment.
"The schottische, I think--yes, the schottische," he replied nervously,
noticing her lack of warmth and not understanding the cause.
"Oh, I'm all out of breath--if you don't mind," she continued evasively;
"we'll wait for the next one." She dared not invite him to sit down,
knowing it would make Harry furious--and then again she couldn't stand
one discordant note to-night--she was too blissfully happy.
"But the next one is mine," exclaimed Harry suddenly, examining his own
dancing-card. He had not shifted his position a hair's breadth, nor did
he intend to--although he had been outwardly polite to the intruder.
"Yes--they'd all be yours, Harry, if you had your way," this in a thin,
dry tone--"but you mustn't forget that Miss Kate's free, white, and
twenty-one, and can do as she pleases."
Harry's lips straightened. He did not like Willits's manner and he was
somewhat shocked at his expression; it seemed to smack more of the cabin
than of the boudoir--especially the boudoir of a princess like his
precious Kate. He noticed, too, that the young man's face was flushed
and his utterance unusually rapid, and he knew what had caused it.
"They will be just what Miss Seymour wants them to be, Willits." The
words came in hard, gritting tones through half-closed lips, and the
tightening of his throat muscles. This phase of the Rutter blood was
Kate was startled. Harry must not lose his self-control. There must be
no misunderstandings on this the happiest night of her life.
"Yes," she said sweetly, with a gracious bend of her head--"but I do
want to dance with Mr. Willits, only I don't know which one to give
"Then give me the Virginia reel, Miss Kate, the one that comes just
before supper, and we can go all in together--you too, Harry," Willits
insisted eagerly. "See, Miss Kate--your card is still empty," and he
turned toward her the face of the one hanging to her wrist.
"No, never the reel, Kate, that is mine!" burst out Harry determinedly,
as a final dismissal to Willits. He lowered his voice, and in a
beseeching tone said--"Father's set his heart on our dancing the reel
together--please don't give him the reel!"
Kate, intent on restoring harmony, arched her neck coyly, and said in
her most bewitching tones--the notes of a robin after a shower: "Well, I
can't tell yet, Mr. Willits, but you shall have one or the other; just
leave it to me--either the reel or the schottische. We will talk it over
when I come down."
"Then it's the reel, Miss Kate, is it not?" he cried, ignoring Harry
completely, backing away as he retraced his steps, a look of triumph on
She shook her head at him, but she did not answer. She wanted to get rid
of him as quickly as possible. Willits had spoiled everything. She was
so happy before he came, and Harry was so adorable. She wished now she
had not drawn away her cheek when he tried to kiss her.
"Don't be angry, Harry, dear," she pleaded coaxingly, determined to get
her lover back once more. "He didn't mean anything--he only wanted to be
"He didn't want to be polite," the angry lover retorted. "He meant to
force himself in between us; that is what he meant, and he's always at
it, every chance he gets. He tried it at Mrs. Cheston's the other night
until I put a stop to it, but there's one thing certain--he'll stop it
when our engagement is announced after supper or I'll know the reason
Kate caught her breath. A new disturbing thought entered her mind. It
was at Mrs. Cheston's that both Willits and Harry had misbehaved
themselves, and it was Harry's part in the sequel which she had
forgiven. The least said about that night the better.
"But he is your guest, Harry," she urged at last, still determined to
divert his thoughts from Willits and the loss of the dance--"OUR guest,"
she went on--"so is everybody else here to-night, and we must do what
everybody wants us to, not be selfish about it. Now, my darling--you
couldn't be impolite to anybody--don't you know you couldn't? Mrs.
Cheston calls you 'My Lord Chesterfield'--I heard her say so to-night."
"Yes, I know, Kate"--he softened--"that's what father said about my
being polite to him--but all the same I didn't want Willits invited, and
it's only because father insisted that he's here. Of course, I'm going
to be just as polite to him as I can, but even father would feel
differently about him if he had heard what he said to you a minute ago."
"What did he say?" She knew, but she loved to hear him defend her. This,
too, was a way out--in a minute he would be her old Harry again.
"I won't even repeat it," he answered doggedly.
"You mean about my being twenty-one? That was rather ungallant, wasn't
Again that long look from under her eyelids--he would have succumbed at
once could he have seen it.
"No, the other part of it. That's not the way to speak to a lady. That's
what I dislike him for. He never was born a gentleman. He isn't a
gentleman and never can be a gentleman."
Kate drew herself up--the unreasonableness of the objection jarred upon
her. He had touched one of her tender spots--pride of birth was
something she detested.
"Don't talk nonsense, Harry," she replied in a slightly impatient voice.
Moods changed with our Kate as unexpectedly as April showers. "What
difference should it make to you or anybody else whether Langdon
Willits's grandmother was a countess or a country girl, so she was
honest and a lady?" Her head went up with a toss as she spoke, for this
was one of Kate's pet theories.
"But he's not of my class, Kate, and he shouldn't be here. I told father
"Then make him one," she answered stoutly, "if only for to-night, by
being extra polite and courteous to him and never letting him feel that
he is outside of what you call 'your class.' I like Mr. Willits, and
have always liked him. He is invariably polite to me, and he can be very
kind and sympathetic at times. Listen! they are calling us, and there
goes the music--come along, darling--it's a schottische and we'll dance
Harry sprang up, slipped his arm around Kate's waist, lifted her to her
feet, held her close, and kissed her squarely on the mouth.
"There, you darling! and another one--two--three! Oh, you precious! What
do I care about Willits or any other red-headed lower county man that
ever lived? He can have fifty grandmothers if he pleases and I won't say
a word--kiss me--kiss me again. Quick now or we'll lose the dance," and,
utterly oblivious as to whether any one had seen them or not, the two
raced down the wide stairs.
While all this gayety was going on in the ballroom another and equally
joyous gathering was besieging the serving tables in the colonel's
private den--a room leading out of the larger supper room, where he kept
his guns and shooting togs, and which had been pressed into service for
this one night.
These thirsty gentlemen were of all ages and tastes, from the young men
just entering society to the few wrinkled bald-pates whose legs had
given out and who, therefore, preferred the colonel's Madeira and
terrapin to the lighter pleasures of the dance.
In and out of the groups, his ruddy, handsome face radiant with the joy
that welled up in his heart, moved St. George Temple. Never had he been
in finer form or feather--never had he looked so well--(not all the
clothes that Poole of London cut came to Moorlands). Something of the
same glow filtered through him that he had felt on the night when the
two lovers had settled their difficulties, and he had swung back through
the park at peace with all the world.
All this could be seen in the way he threw back his head, smiling right
and left; the way he moved his hands--using them as some men do words or
their eyebrows--now uplifting them in surprise at the first glimpse of
some unexpected face, his long delicate fingers outspread in
exclamations of delight; now closing them tight when he had those of the
new arrival in his grasp--now curving them, palms up, as he lifted to
his lips the fingers of a grande dame. "Keep your eyes on St. George,"
whispered Mrs. Cheston, who never missed a point in friend or foe and
whose fun at a festivity often lay in commenting on her neighbors,
praise or blame being impartially mixed as her fancy was touched. "And
by all means watch his hands, my dear. They are like the baton of an
orchestra leader and tell the whole story. Only men whose blood and
lineage have earned them freedom from toil, or men whose brains throb
clear to their finger-tips, have such hands. Yes! St. George is very
happy to-night, and I know why. He has something on his mind that he
means to tell us later on."
Mrs. Cheston was right: she generally was--St. George did have something
on his mind--something very particular on his mind--a little speech
really which was a dead secret to everybody except prying Mrs.
Cheston--one which was to precede the uncorking of that wonderful old
Madeira, and the final announcement of the engagement--a little speech
in which he meant to refer to their two dear mothers when they were
girls, recalling traits and episodes forgotten by most, but which from
their very loveliness had always lingered in his heart and memory.
Before this important event took place, however, there were some matters
which he intended to look after himself, one of them being the bowl of
punch and its contiguous beverages in the colonel's den. This seemed to
be the storm centre to-night, and here he determined, even at the risk
of offending his host, to set up danger-signals at the first puff of
wind. The old fellows, if they chose, might empty innumerable ladles
full of apple toddy or compounds of Santa Cruz rum and pineapples into
their own persons, but not the younger bloods! His beloved Kate had
suffered enough because of these roysterers. There should be one ball
around Kennedy Square in which everybody would behave themselves, and he
did not intend to mince his words when the time came. He had discussed
the matter with the colonel when the ball opened, but little
encouragement came from that quarter.
"So far as these young sprigs are concerned, St. George," Rutter had
flashed back, "they must look out for themselves. I can't curtail my
hospitality to suit their babyships. As for Harry, you're only wasting
your time. He is made of different stuff--it's not in his blood and
couldn't be. Whatever else he may become he will never be a sot. Let him
have his fling: once a Rutter, always a Rutter," and then, with a ring
in his voice, "when my son ceases to be a gentleman, St. George, I will
show him the door, but drink will never do it."
Dr. Teackle had also been on the alert. He was a young physician just
coming into practice, many of the younger set being his patients, and he
often acted as a curb when they broke loose. He, with St. George's
whispered caution in his ears, had also tried to frame a word of protest
to the colonel, suggesting in the mildest way that that particular bowl
of apple toddy be not replenished--but the Lord of the Manor had
silenced him with a withering glance before he had completed his
sentence. In this dilemma he had again sought out St. George.
"Look out for Willits, Uncle George. He'll be staggering in among the
ladies if he gets another crack at that toddy. It's an infernal shame to
bring these relays of punch in here. I tried to warn the colonel, but he
came near eating me up. Willits has had very little experience in this
sort of thing and is mixing his eggnog with everything within his reach.
That will split his head wide open in the morning."
"Go and find him, Teackle, and bring him to me," cried St. George; "I'll
stay here until you get him. Tell him I want to see him--and Alec"--this
to the old butler who was skimming past, his hands laden with
dishes--"don't you bring another drop of punch into this room until you
"But de colonel say dat--"
"--I don't care what the colonel says; if he wants to know why, tell him
I ordered it. I'm not going to have this night spoiled by any tomfoolery
of Talbot's, I don't care what he says. You hear me, Alec? Not a drop.
Take out those half-empty bowls and don't you serve another thimbleful
of anything until I say so." Here he turned to the young doctor, who
seemed rather surprised at St. George's dictatorial air--one rarely seen
in him. "Yes--brutal, I know, Teackle, and perhaps a little
ill-mannered, this interfering with another man's hospitality, but if
you knew how Kate has suffered over this same stupidity you would say I
was right. Talbot never thinks--never cares. Because he's got a head as
steady as a town clock and can put away a bottle of port without winking
an eyelid, he believes anybody else can do the same. I tell you this
sort of thing has got to stop or sooner or later these young bloods will
break the hearts of half the girls in town. ... Careful! here comes
Willits--not another word. ... Oh, Mr. Willits, here you are! I was
just going to send for you. I want to talk to you about that mare of
yours--is she still for sale?" His nonchalance was delightful.
"No, Mr. Temple; I had thought of keeping her, sir," the young man
rejoined blandly, greatly flattered at having been specially singled out
by the distinguished Mr. Temple. "But if you are thinking of buying my
mare, I should be most delighted to consider it. If you will permit
me--I will call upon you in the morning." This last came with elaborate
effusiveness. "But you haven't a drop of anything to drink, Mr. Temple,
nor you either, doctor! Egad! What am I thinking of! Come, won't you
join me? The colonel's mixtures are--"
"Better wait, Mr. Willits," interrupted St. George calmly and with the
air of one conversant with the resources of the house. "Alec has just
taken out a half-emptied bowl of toddy." He had seen at a glance that
Teackle's diagnosis of the young man's condition was correct.
"Then let us have a swig at the colonel's port--it's the best in the
"No, hold on till the punch comes. You young fellows don't know how to
take care of your stomachs. You ought to stick to your tipple as you do
to your sweetheart--you should only have one."
"--At a time," laughed Teackle.
"No, one ALL the time, you dog! When I was your age, Mr. Willits, if I
drank Madeira I continued to drink Madeira, not to mix it up with
everything on the table."
"By Jove, you're right, Mr. Temple! I'm sticking to one girl--Miss
Kate's my girl to-night. I'm going to dance the Virginia reel with her."
St. George eyed him steadily. He saw that the liquor had already reached
his head or he would not have spoken of Kate as he did. "Your choice is
most admirable, Mr. Willits," he said suavely, "but let Harry have Miss
Kate to-night," adding, as he laid his hand confidingly on the young
man's shoulder--"they were made to step that dance together."
"But she said she would dance it with me!" he flung back--he did not
mean to be defrauded.
"Really?" It was wonderful how soft St. George's voice could be. Teackle
could not have handled a refractory patient the better.
"Well, that is," rejoined Willits, modified by Temple's tone--"she is to
let me know--that was the bargain."
Still another soft cadence crept into St. George's voice: "Well, even if
she did say she would let you know, do be a little generous. Miss
Seymour is always so obliging; but she ought really to dance the reel
with Harry to-night." He used Kate's full name, but Willits's head was
buzzing too loudly for him to notice the delicately suggested rebuke.
"Well, I don't see that, and I'm not going to see it, either. Harry's
always coming in between us; he tried to get Miss Kate away from me a
little while ago, but he didn't succeed."
"Noblesse oblige, my dear Mr. Willits," rejoined St. George in a more
positive tone. "He is host, you know, and the ball is given to Miss
Seymour, and Harry can do nothing else but be attentive." He felt like
strangling the cub, but it was neither the time nor place--nothing
should disturb Kate's triumph if he could help it. One way was to keep
Willits sober, and this he intended to do whether the young man liked it
or not--if he talked to him all night.
"But it is my dance," Willits broke out. "You ask him if it isn't my
dance--he heard what Miss Kate said. Here comes Harry now."
Like a breath of west wind our young prince blew in, his face radiant,
his eyes sparkling. He had entirely forgotten the incident on the stairs
in the rapture of Kate's kisses, and Willits was once more one of the
many guests he was ready to serve and be courteous to.
"Ah, gentlemen--I hope you have everything you want!" he cried with a
joyous wave of his hand. "Where will I get an ice for Kate, Uncle
George? We are just about beginning the Virginia reel and she is so
warm. Oh, we have had such a lovely waltz! Why are you fellows not
dancing? Send them in, Uncle George." He was brimming over with
Willits moved closer: "What did you say? The Virginia reel? Has it
begun?" His head was too muddled for quick thinking.
"Not yet, Willits, but it will right away--everybody is on the floor
now," returned Harry, his eyes in search of something to hold Kate's
"Then it is my dance, Harry. I thought the reel was to be just before
supper or I would have hunted Miss Kate up."
"So it is," laughed Harry, catching up an empty plate from the serving
table and moving to where the ices were spread. "You ought to know, for
you told her yourself. It is about to begin. They were taking their
partners when I left."
"Then that's MY reel," Willits insisted. "You heard what Miss Kate said,
Harry--that's what I told you too, Mr. Temple," and he turned to St.
George for confirmation.
"Oh, but you are mistaken, Langdon," continued Harry, bending over the
dish. "She said she would decide later on whether to give you the reel