Part 2 out of 7
or a schottische--and she has. Miss Kate dances this reel with me."
There was a flash in his eye as he spoke, but he was still the host.
"And I suppose you will want the one after supper too," snapped Willits.
He had edged closer and was now speaking to Harry's bent back.
"Why, certainly, if Miss Kate is willing and wishes it," rejoined Harry
simply, still too intent on having the ice reach his sweetheart at the
earliest possible moment to notice either Willits's condition or his
tone of voice.
Willits sprang forward just as Harry regained his erect position. "No
you won't, sir!" he cried angrily. "I've got some rights here and I'm
going to protect them. I'll ask Miss Kate myself and find out whether I
am to be made a fool of like this," and before St. George could prevent
started for the door.
Harry dropped the plate on the table and blocked the enraged man's exit
with his outstretched arm. He was awake now--wide awake--and to the
"You'll do nothing of the kind, Langdon--not in your present state. Pull
yourself together, man! Miss Seymour is not accustomed to be spoken of
in that way and you know it. Now don't be foolish--stay here with Uncle
George and the doctor until you cool down. There are the best of reasons
why I should dance the reel with Miss Kate, but I can't explain them
"Neither am I, Mr. Harry Rutter, accustomed to be spoken to in that way
by you or anybody else. I don't care a rap for your explanations. Get
out of my way, or you'll be sorry," and he sprang one side and flung
himself out of the room before Harry could realize the full meaning of
St. George saw the flash in the boy's eyes, and stretching out his hand
laid it on Harry's arm.
"Steady, my boy! Let him go--Kate will take care of him."
"No! I'll take care of him!--and now!" He was out of the room and the
door shut behind him before Temple could frame a reply.
St. George shot an anxious, inquiring look at Teackle, who nodded his
head in assent, and the two hurried from the room and across the expanse
of white crash, Willits striding ahead, Harry at his heels, St. George
and the doctor following close behind.
Kate stood near the far door, her radiant eyes fixed on Harry's
approaching figure--the others she did not see. Willits reached her
"Miss Kate, isn't this my dance?" he burst out--"didn't you promise
Kate started and for a moment her face flushed. If she had forgotten any
promise she had made it certainly was not intentional. Then her mind
acted. There must be no bad blood here--certainly not between Harry and
"No, not quite that, Mr. Willits," she answered in her sweetest voice, a
certain roguish coquetry in its tones. "I said I'd think it over, and
you never came near me, and so Harry and I are--"
"But you DID promise me." His voice could be heard all over the
room--even the colonel, who was talking to a group of ladies, raised his
head to listen, his companions thinking the commotion was due to the
proper arranging of the dance.
Harry's eyes flashed; angry blood was mounting to his cheeks. He was
amazed at Willits's outburst.
"You mean to contradict Miss Kate! Are you crazy, Willits?"
"No, I am entirely sane," he retorted, an ugly ring in his voice.
Everybody had ceased talking now. Good-natured disputes over the young
girls were not uncommon among the young men, but this one seemed to have
an ominous sound. Colonel Rutter evidently thought so, for he had now
risen from his seat and was crossing the room to where Harry and the
"Well, you neither act nor talk as if you were sane, rejoined Harry in
cold, incisive tones, inching his way nearer Kate, as if to be the
better prepared to defend her.
Willits's lip curled. "I am not beholden to you, sir, for my conduct,
although I can be later on for my words. Let me see your dancing-card,
Miss Kate," and he caught it from her unresisting hand. "There--what
did I tell you!" This came with a flare of indignation. "It was a blank
when I saw it last and you've filled it in, sir, of your own accord!"
Here he faced Harry. "That's your handwriting--I'll leave it to you, Mr.
Temple, if it isn't his handwriting."
Harry flushed scarlet and his eyes blazed as he stepped toward the
speaker. Kate shrank back in alarm--she had read Harry's face and knew
what was behind it.
"Take that back, Langdon--quick! You are my guest, but you mustn't say
things like that here. I put my name on the card because Miss Kate asked
me to. Take it back, sir--NOW!--and then make an humble apology to Miss
"I'll take back nothing! I've been cheated out of a dance. Here--take
her--and take this with her!" and he tore Kate's card in half and threw
the pieces in his host's face.
With the spring of a cat, Harry lunged forward and raised his arm as if
to strike Willits in the face: Willits drew himself up to his full
height and confronted him: Kate shrivelled within herself, all the color
gone from her cheeks. Whether to call out for help or withdraw quietly,
was what puzzled her. Both would concentrate the attention of the whole
room on the dispute.
St. George, who was boiling with indignation and disgust, but still cool
and himself, pushed his way into the middle of the group.
"Not a word, Harry," he whispered in low, frigid tones. "This can be
settled in another way." Then in his kindest voice, so loud that all
could hear--"Teackle, will you and Mr. Willits please meet me in the
colonel's den--that, perhaps, is the best place after all to straighten
out these tangles. I'll join you there as soon as I have Miss Kate
safely settled." He bent over her: "Kate, dear, perhaps you had better
sit alongside of Mrs. Rutter until I can get these young fellows cooled
off"--and in a still lower key--"you behaved admirably, my
girl--admirably. I'm proud of you. Mr. Willits has had too much to
drink--that is what is the matter with him, but it will be all over in a
minute--and, Harry, my boy, suppose you help me look up Teackle," and he
laid his hand with an authoritative pressure on the boy's arm.
The colonel had by this time reached the group and stood trying to catch
the cue. He had heard the closing sentence of St. George's instructions,
but he had missed the provocation, although he had seen Harry's uplifted
"What's the matter, St. George?" he inquired nervously.
"Just a little misunderstanding, Talbot, as to who was to dance with our
precious Kate," St. George answered with a laugh, as he gripped Harry's
arm the tighter. "She is such a darling that it is as much as I can do
to keep these young Romeos from running each other through the body,
they are so madly in love with her. I am thinking of making off with her
myself as the only way to keep the peace. Yes, you dear girl, I'll come
back. Hold the music up for a little while, Talbot, until I can
straighten them all out," and with his arm still tight through Harry's,
the two walked the length of the room and closed the far door behind
Kate looked after them and her heart sank all the lower. She knew the
feeling between the two men, and she knew Harry's hot, ungovernable
temper--the temper of the Rutters. Patient as he often was, and
tender-hearted as he could be, there flashed into his eyes now and then
something that frightened her--something that recalled an incident in
the history of his house. He had learned from his gentle mother to
forgive affronts to himself; she had seen him do it many times,
overlooking what another man would have resented, but an affront to
herself or any other woman was a different matter: that he would never
forgive. She knew, too, that he had just cause to be offended, for in
all her life no one had ever been so rude to her. That she herself was
partly to blame only intensified her anxiety. Willits loved her, for he
had told her so, not once, but several times, although she had answered
him only with laughter. She should have been honest and not played the
coquette: and yet, although the fault was partly her own, never had she
been more astonished than at his outburst. In all her acquaintance with
him he had never lost his temper. Harry, of course, would lay it to
Willits's lack of breeding--to the taint in his blood. But she knew
better--it was the insanity produced by drink, combined with his
jealousy of Harry, which had caused the gross outrage. If she had only
told Willits herself of her betrothal and not waited to surprise him
before the assembled guests, it would have been fairer and spared every
one this scene.
All these thoughts coursed through her mind as with head still proudly
erect she crossed the room on the colonel's arm, to a seat beside her
future mother-in-law, who had noticed nothing, and to whom not a
syllable of the affair would have been mentioned, all such matters being
invariably concealed from the dear lady.
Old Mrs. Cheston, however, was more alert; not only had she caught the
anger in Harry's eyes, but she had followed the flight of the torn card
as its pieces fell to the floor. She had once been present at a
reception given by a prime minister when a similar fracas had occurred.
Then it was a lady's glove and not a dancing-card which was thrown in a
rival's face, and it was a rapier that flashed and not a clenched fist.
"What was the matter over there, Talbot?" she demanded, speaking from
behind her fan when the colonel came within hearing.
"Nothing! Some little disagreement about who should lead the Virginia
reel with Kate. I have stopped the music until they fix it up."
"Don't talk nonsense, Talbot Rutter, not to me. There was bad blood over
there--you better look after them. There'll be trouble if you don't."
The colonel tucked the edge of a rebellious ruffle inside his
embroidered waistcoat and with a quiet laugh said: "St. George is
attending to them."
"St. George is as big a fool as you are about such things. Go, I tell
you, and see what they are doing in there with the door shut."
"But, my dear Mrs. Cheston," echoed her host with a deprecating wave of
his hand--"my Harry would no more attack a man under his own roof than
you would cut off your right hand. He's not born that way--none of us
"You talk like a perfect idiot, Talbot!" she retorted angrily. "You seem
to have forgotten everything you knew. These young fellows here are so
many tinder boxes. There will be trouble I tell you--go out there and
find out what is going on," she reiterated, her voice increasing in
intensity. "They've had time enough to fix up a dozen Virginia
reels--and besides, Kate is waiting, and they know it. Look! there's
some one coming out--it's that young Teackle. Call him over here and
The doctor, who had halted at the door, was now scrutinizing the faces
of the guests as if in search of some one. Then he moved swiftly to the
far side of the room, touched Mark Gilbert, Harry's most intimate
friend, on the shoulder, and the two left the floor.
Kate sat silent, a fixed smile on her face that ill concealed her
anxiety. She had heard every word of the talk between Mrs. Cheston and
the colonel, but she did not share the old lady's alarm as to any actual
conflict. She would trust Uncle George to avoid that. But what kept
Harry? Why leave her thus abruptly and send no word back? In her dilemma
she leaned forward and touched the colonel's arm.
"You don't think anything is the matter, dear colonel, do you?"
"With whom, Kate?"
"Between Harry and Mr. Willits. Harry might resent it--he was very
angry." Her lips were quivering, her eyes strained. She could hide her
anxiety from her immediate companions, but the colonel was Harry's
The colonel turned quickly: "Resent it here! under his own roof, and the
man his guest? That is one thing, my dear, a Rutter never violates, no
matter what the provocation. I have made a special exception in Mr.
Willits's favor to-night and Harry knows it. It was at your dear
father's request that I invited the young fellow. And then again, I hear
the most delightful things about his own father, who though a plain man
is of great service to his county--one of Mr. Clay's warmest adherents.
All this, you see, makes it all the more incumbent that both my son and
myself should treat him with the utmost consideration, and, as I have
said, Harry understands this perfectly. You don't know my boy; I would
disown him, Kate, if he laid a hand on Mr. Willits--and so should you."
When Dr. Teackle shut the door of the ballroom upon himself and Mark
Gilbert the two did not tarry long in the colonel's den, which was still
occupied by half a dozen of the older men, who were being beguiled by a
relay of hot terrapin that Alec had just served. On the contrary, they
continued on past the serving tables, past old Cobden Dorsey, who was
steeped to the eyes in Santa Cruz rum punch; past John Purviance, and
Gatchell and Murdoch, smacking their lips over the colonel's Madeira,
dived through a door leading first to a dark passage, mounted to a short
flight of steps leading to another dark passage, and so on through a
second door until they reached a small room level with the ground. This
was the colonel's business office, where he conducted the affairs of the
estate--a room remote from the great house and never entered except on
the colonel's special invitation and only then when business of
importance necessitated its use.
That business of the very highest importance--not in any way connected
with the colonel, though of the very gravest moment--was being enacted
here to-night, could be seen the instant Teackle, with Gilbert at his
heels, threw open the door. St. George and Harry were in one
corner--Harry backed against the wall. The boy was pale, but perfectly
calm and silent. On his face was the look of a man who had a duty to
perform and who intended to go through with it come what might. On the
opposite side of the room stood Willits with two young men, his most
intimate friends. They had followed him out of the ballroom to learn the
cause of his sudden outburst, and so far had only heard Willits's side
of the affair. He was now perfectly sober and seemed to feel his
position, but he showed no fear. On the desk lay a mahogany case
containing the colonel's duelling pistols. Harry had taken them from his
father's closet as he passed through the colonel's den.
St. George turned to the young doctor. His face was calm and thoughtful,
and he seemed to realize fully the gravity of the situation.
"It's no use, Teackle," St. George said with an expressive lift of his
fingers. "I have done everything a man could, but there is only one way
out of it. I have tried my best to save Kate from every unhappiness
to-night, but this is something much more important than woman's tears,
and that is her lover's honor."
"You mean to tell me, Uncle George, that you can't stop this!" Teackle
whispered with some heat, his eyes strained, his lips twitching. Here he
faced Harry. "You sha'n't go on with this affair, I tell you, Harry.
What will Kate say? Do you think she wants you murdered for a foolish
thing like this!--and that's about what will happen."
The boy made no reply, except to shake his head. He knew what Kate would
say--knew what she would do, and knew what she would command him to do,
could she have heard Willits's continued insults in this very room but a
moment before while St. George was trying to make him apologize to his
host and so end the disgraceful incident.
"Then I'll go and bring in the colonel and see what he can do!" burst
out Teackle, starting for the door. "It's an outrage that--"
"You'll stay here, Teackle," commanded St. George--"right where you
stand! This is no place for a father. Harry is of age."
"But what an ending to a night like this!"
"I know it--horrible!--frightful!--but I would rather see the boy lying
dead at my feet than not defend the woman he loves." This came in a
decisive tone, as if he had long since made up his mind to this phase of
"But Langdon is Harry's guest," Teackle pleaded, dropping his voice
still lower to escape being heard by the group at the opposite end of
the room--"and he is still under his roof. It is never done--it is
against the code. Besides"--and his voice became a whisper--"Harry never
levelled a pistol at a man in his life, and this is not Langdon's first
meeting. We can fix it in the morning. I tell you we must fix it."
Harry, who had been listening quietly, reached across the table, picked
up the case of pistols, handed it to Gilbert, whom he had chosen as his
second, and in a calm, clear, staccato tone--each word a bullet rammed
"No--Teackle, there will be no delay until to-morrow. Mr. Willits has
forfeited every claim to being my guest and I will fight him here and
now. I could never look Kate in the face, nor would she ever speak to me
again, if I took any other course. You forget that he virtually told
Kate she lied," and he gazed steadily at Willits as if waiting for the
effect of his shot.
St. George's eyes kindled. There was the ring of a man in the boy's
words. He had seen the same look on the elder Rutter's face in a similar
situation twenty years before. As a last resort he walked toward where
Willits stood conferring with his second.
"I ask you once more, Mr. Willits"--he spoke in his most courteous tones
(Willits's pluck had greatly raised him in his estimation)--"to
apologize like a man and a gentleman. There is no question in my mind
that you have insulted your host in his own house and been discourteous
to the woman he expects to marry, and that the amende honorable should
come from you. I am twice your age and have had many experiences of this
kind, and I would neither ask you to do a dishonorable thing nor would I
permit you to do it if I could prevent it. Make a square, manly apology
Willits gazed at him with a certain ill-concealed contempt on his face.
He was at the time loosening the white silk scarf about his throat in
preparation for the expected encounter. He evidently did not believe a
word of that part of the statement which referred to Harry's engagement.
If Kate had been engaged to Harry she would have told him so.
"You are only wasting your time, Mr. Temple," he answered with an
impatient lift of his chin as he stripped his coat from his broad
shoulders. "You have just said there is only one way to settle this--I
am ready--so are my friends. You will please meet me outside--there is
plenty of firelight under the trees, and the sooner we get through this
the better. The apology should not come from me, and will not. Come,
gentlemen," and he stepped out into the now drizzling night, the glare
of the torches falling on his determined face and white shirt as he
strode down the path followed by his seconds.
Seven gentlemen hurriedly gathered together, one a doctor and another in
full possession of a mahogany case containing two duelling pistols with
their accompanying ammunition, G. D. gun caps, powder-horn, swabs and
rammers, and it past eleven o'clock at night, would have excited but
little interest to the average darky--especially one unaccustomed to the
portents and outcomes of such proceedings.
Not so Alec, who had absorbed the situation at a glance. He had
accompanied his master on two such occasions--one at Bladensburg and the
other on a neighboring estate, when the same suggestive tokens had been
visible, except that those fights took place at daybreak, and after
every requirement of the code had been complied with, instead of under
the flare of smoking pine torches and within a step of the contestant's
front door. He had, besides, a most intimate knowledge of the contents
of the mahogany case, it being part of his duty to see that these
defenders of the honor of all the Rutters--and they had been in frequent
use--were kept constantly oiled and cleaned. He had even cast some
bullets the month before under the colonel's direction. That he was
present to-night was entirely due to the fact that having made a short
cut to the kitchen door in order to hurry some dishes, he had by the
merest chance, and at the precise psychological moment, run bump up
against the warlike party just before they had reached the duelling
ground. This was a well-lighted path but a stone's throw from the porch,
and sufficiently hidden by shrubbery to be out of sight of the ballroom
The next moment the old man was in full cry to the house. He had heard
the beginning of the trouble while he was carrying out St. George's
orders regarding the two half-emptied bowls of punch and understood
exactly what was going to happen, and why.
"Got de colonel's pistols!" he choked as he sped along the gravel walk
toward the front door the quicker to reach the ballroom--"and Marse
Harry nothin' but a baby! Gor-a-Mighty! Gor-a-Mighty!" Had they all been
grown-ups he might not have minded--but his "Marse Harry," the child he
brought up, his idol--his chum!--"Fo' Gawd, dey sha'n't kill 'im--dey
He had reached the porch now, swung back the door, and with a sudden
spring--it was wonderful how quick he moved--had dashed into the
ballroom, now a maze of whirling figures--a polka having struck up to
keep everybody occupied until the reel was finally made up.
"Marse Talbot!--Marse Talbot!" All domestic training was cast aside, not
a moment could be lost--"All on ye!--dey's murder outside--somebody go
git de colonel!--Oh, Gawd!--somebody git 'im quick!"
Few heard him and nobody paid any attention to his entreaties; nor could
anybody, when they did listen, understand what he wanted--the men
swearing under their breath, the girls indignant that he had blocked
their way. Mrs. Rutter, who had seen his in-rush, sat aghast. Had Alec,
too, given way, she wondered--old Alec who had had full charge of the
wine cellar for years! But the old man pressed on, still shouting, his
voice almost gone, his eyes bursting from his head.
"Dey's gwineter murder Marse Harry--I seen 'em! Oh!--whar's de colonel!
Won't somebody please--Oh, my Gawd!--dis is awful! Don't I tell ye
dey's gwineter kill Marse Harry!"
Mrs. Cheston, sitting beside Kate, was the only one who seemed to
"Alec!" she called in her imperious voice--"Alec!--come to me at once!
What is the matter?"
The old butler shambled forward and stood trembling, the tears streaming
down his cheeks.
"Yes, mum--I'm yere! Oh, can't ye git de colonel--ain't nobody else'll
"Is it a duel?"
"Yes, mum! I jes' done see 'em! Dey's gwineter kill my Marse Harry!"
Kate sprang up. "Where are they?" she cried, shivering with fear. The
old man's face had told the story.
"Out by de greenhouse--dey was measurin' off de groun'--dey's got de
colonel's pistols--you kin see 'em from de winder!"
In an instant she had parted the heavy silk curtains and lifted the
sash. She would have thrown herself from it if Mrs. Cheston had not held
her, although it was but a few feet from the ground.
"Harry!" she shrieked--an agonizing shriek that reverberated through the
ballroom, bringing everybody and everything to a stand-still. The
dancers looked at each other in astonishment. What had happened? Who had
The colonel now passed through the room. He had been looking after the
proper handling of the famous Madeira, and had just heard that Alec
wanted him, and was uncertain as to the cause of the disturbance. A
woman's scream had reached his ears, but he did not know it was Kate's
or he would have quickened his steps.
Again Kate's voice pierced the room:
"Harry! HARRY!"--this time in helpless agony. She had peered into the
darkness made denser by the light rain, and had caught a glimpse of a
man standing erect without his coat, the light of the torches bringing
his figure into high relief--whose she could not tell, the bushes were
The colonel brushed everybody aside and pulled Kate, half fainting, into
the room. Then he faced Mrs. Cheston.
"What has happened?" he asked sharply. "What is going on outside?"
"Just what I told you. Those fools are out there trying to murder each
Two shots in rapid succession rang clear on the night air.
The colonel stood perfectly still. No need to tell him now what had
happened, and worse yet, no need to tell him what WOULD happen if he
showed the slightest agitation. He was a cool man, accustomed to
critical situations, and one who never lost his head in an emergency.
Only a few years before he had stopped a runaway hunter, with a girl
clinging to a stirrup, by springing straight at the horse's head and
bringing them both to the ground unhurt. It only required the same
instantaneous concentration of all his forces, he said to himself, as he
gazed into old Alec's terror-stricken face framed by the open window.
Once let the truth be known and the house would be in a panic--women
fainting, men rushing out, taking sides with the combatants, with
perhaps other duels to follow--Mrs. Rutter frantic, the ball suddenly
broken up, and this, too, near midnight, with most of his guests ten
miles and more from home.
Murmurs of alarm were already reaching his ears: What was it?--who had
fainted?--did the scream come from inside or outside the room?--what was
the firing about?
He turned to allay Kate's anxiety, but she had cleared the open window
at a bound and was already speeding toward where she had seen the light
on the man's shirt. For an instant he peered after her into the
darkness, and then, his mind made up, closed the sash with a quick
movement, flung together the silk curtains and raised his hand to
"Keep on with the dance, my friends; I'll go and find out what has
happened--but it's nothing that need worry anybody--only a little burnt
powder. Alec, go and tell Mr. Grant, the overseer, to keep better order
outside. In the meantime let everybody get ready for the Virginia reel;
supper will be served in a few minutes. Will you young gentlemen please
choose your partners, and will some one of you kindly ask the music to
Slowly, and quite as if he had been called to the front door to welcome
some belated guest, he walked the length of the room preceded by Alec,
who, agonized at his master's measured delay, had forged ahead to open
the door. This closed and they out of sight, the two hurried down the
Willits lay flat on the ground, one arm stretched above his head. He had
measured his full length, the weight of his shoulder breaking some
flower-pots as he fell. Over his right eye gaped an ugly wound from
which oozed a stream of blood that stained his cheek and throat. Dr.
Teackle, on one knee, was searching the patient's heart, while Kate, her
pretty frock soiled with mud, her hair dishevelled, sat crouched in the
dirt rubbing his hands--sobbing bitterly--crying out whenever Harry, who
was kneeling beside her, tried to soothe her:--"No!--No!--My heart's
broken--don't speak to me--go away!"
The colonel, towering above them, looked the scene over, then he
confronted Harry, who had straightened to his feet on seeing his father.
"A pretty piece of work--and on a night like this! A damnable piece of
work, I should say, sir! ... Has he killed him, Teackle?"
The young doctor shook his head ominously.
"I cannot tell yet--his heart is still beating."
St. George now joined the group. He and Gilbert and the other seconds
had, in order to maintain secrecy, been rounding up the few negroes who
had seen the encounter, or who had been attracted to the spot by the
"Harry had my full consent, Talbot--there was really nothing else to do.
Only an ounce of cold lead will do in some cases, and this was one of
them." He was grave and deliberate in manner, but there was an infinite
sadness in his voice.
"He did--did he?" retorted the colonel bitterly. "YOUR full consent!
YOURS! and I in the next room!" Here he beckoned to one of the negroes
who, with staring eyeballs, stood gazing from one to the other. "Come
closer, Eph--not a whisper, remember, or I'll cut the hide off your back
in strips. Tell the others what I say--if a word of this gets into the
big house or around the cabins I'll know who to punish. Now two or three
of you go into the greenhouse, pick up one of those wide planks, and
lift this gentleman onto it so we can carry him. Take him into my
office, doctor, and lay him on my lounge. He'd better die there than
here. Come, Kate--do you go with me. Not a syllable of this, remember,
Kate, to Mrs. Rutter, or anybody else. As for you, sir"--and he looked
Harry squarely in the face--"you will hear from me later on."
With the same calm determination, he entered the ballroom, walked to the
group forming the reel, and, with a set smile on this face indicating
how idle had been everybody's fears, said loud enough to be heard by
every one about him:
"Only one of the men, my dear young people, who has been hurt in the too
careless use of some firearms. As to dear Kate--she has been so
upset--she happened unfortunately to see the affair from the
window--that she has gone to her room and so you must excuse her for a
little while. Now everybody keep on with the dance."
With his wife he was even more at ease. "The same old root of all evil,
my dear," he said with a dry laugh--"too much peach brandy, and this
time down the wrong throats--and so in their joy they must celebrate by
firing off pistols and wasting my good ammunition," an explanation which
completely satisfied the dear lady--peach brandy being capable of
producing any calamity, great or small.
But this would not do for Mrs. Cheston. She was a woman who could be
trusted and who never, on any occasion, lost her nerve. He saw from the
way she lifted her eyebrows in inquiry, instead of framing her question
in words, that she fully realized the gravity of the situation. The
colonel looked at her significantly, made excuse to step in front of
her, his back to the room, and with his forefinger tapping his forehead,
The old lady paled, but she did not change her expression.
"And Harry?" she murmured in return.
The colonel kept his eyes upon her, but he made no answer. A hard, cold
look settled on his face--one she knew--one his negroes feared when he
Again she repeated Harry's name, this time in alarm:
"Quick!--tell me--not killed?"
"No--I wish to God he were!"
The wounded man lay on a lounge in the office room, which was dimly
lighted by the dying glow of the outside torches and an oil lamp
hurriedly brought in. No one was present except St. George, Harry, the
doctor, and a negro woman who had brought in some pillows and hot water.
All that could be done for him had been done; he was unconscious and his
life hung by a thread. Harry, now that the mysterious thing called his
"honor" had been satisfied, was helping Teackle wash the wound prior to
an attempt to probe for the ball.
The boy was crying quietly--the tears streaming unbidden down his
cheeks--it was his first experience at this sort of thing. He had been
brought up to know that some day it might come and that he must then
face it, but he had never before realized the horror of what might
follow. And yet he had not reached the stage of regret; he was sorry for
the wounded man and for his suffering, but he was not sorry for his own
share in causing it. He had only done his duty, and but for a stroke of
good luck he and Willits might have exchanged places. Uncle George had
expressed his feelings exactly when he said that only a bit of cold lead
could settle some insults, and what insult could have been greater than
the one for which he had shot Willits? What was a gentleman to do? Go
around meeting his antagonist every day?--the two ignoring each other?
Or was he to turn stable boy, and pound him with his fists?--or, more
ridiculous still, have him bound over to keep the peace, or bring an
action for--Bah!--for what?--Yes--for what? Willits hadn't struck him,
or wounded him, or robbed him. It had been his life or Willits's.
No--there was no other way--couldn't be any other way. Willits knew it
when he tore up Kate's card--knew what would follow. There was no
deception--nothing underhand. And he had got precisely what he deserved,
sorry as he felt for his sufferings.
Then Kate's face rose before him--haunted him. Why hadn't she seen it
this way? Why had she refused to look at him--refused to answer
him--driven him away from her side, in fact?--he who had risked his life
to save her from insult! Why wouldn't she allow him to even touch her
hand? Why did she treat Willits--drunken vulgarian as he
was--differently from the way she had treated him? She had broken off
her engagement with him because he was drunk at Mrs. Cheston's ball,
where nobody had been hurt but himself, and here she was sympathizing
with another drunken man who had not only outraged all sense of decency
toward her, but had jeopardized the life of her affianced husband who
defended her against his insults; none of which would have happened had
the man been sober. All this staggered him.
More astounding still was her indifference. She had not even asked if he
had escaped unhurt, but had concentrated all her interest upon the man
who had insulted her. As to his own father's wrath--that he had
expected. It was his way to break out, and this he knew would continue
until he realized the enormity of the insult to Kate and heard how he
and St. George had tried to ward off the catastrophe. Then he would not
only change his opinion, but would commend him for his courage.
Outside the sick-room such guests as could be trusted were gathered
together in the colonel's den, where they talked in whispers. All agreed
that the ladies and the older men must be sent home as soon as possible,
and in complete ignorance of what had occurred. If Willits lived--of
which there was little hope--his home would be at the colonel's until he
fully recovered, the colonel having declared that neither expense nor
care would be spared to hasten his recovery. If he died, the body would
be sent to his father's house later on.
With this object in view the dance was adroitly shortened, the supper
hurried through, and within an hour after midnight the last carriage and
carryall of those kept in ignorance of the duel had departed, the only
change in the programme being the non-opening of the rare old bottle of
Madeira and the announcement of Harry's and Kate's engagement--an
omission which provoked little comment, as it had been known to but few.
Kate remained. She had tottered upstairs holding on to the hand-rail and
had thrown herself on a bed in the room leading out of the
dressing-room, where she lay in her mud-stained dress, the silken
petticoat torn and bedraggled in her leap from the window. She was
weeping bitterly, her old black mammy sitting beside her trying to
comfort her as best she could.
With the departure of the last guest--Mr. Seymour among them; the
colonel doing the honors; standing bare-headed on the porch, his face
all smiles as he bade them good-by--the head of the house of Rutter
turned quickly on his heel, passed down the corridor, made his way along
the long narrow hall, and entered his office, where the wounded man lay.
Harry, the negro woman, and Dr. Teackle alone were with him.
"Is there any change?" he asked in a perfectly even voice. Every vestige
of the set smile of the host had left his face. Harry he did not even
"Not much--he is still alive," replied the doctor.
"Have you found the ball?"
"No--I have not looked for it--I will presently."
The colonel moved out a chair and sat down beside the dying man, his
eyes fixed on the lifeless face. Some wave of feeling must have swept
through him, for after a half-stifled sigh, he said in a low voice, as
if to himself:
"This will be a fine story to tell his father, won't it?--and here
too--under my roof. My God!--was there ever anything more disgraceful!"
He paused for a moment, his eyes still on the sufferer, and then went
on--this time to the doctor--"His living so long gives me some hope--am
I right, Teackle?"
The doctor nodded, but he made no audible reply. He had bent closer to
the man's chest and was at the moment listening intently to the labored
breathing, which seemed to have increased.
Harry edged nearer to the patient, his eyes seeking for some move of
life. All his anger had faded. Willits, his face ablaze with drink and
rage, his eyes flashing, his strident voice ringing out--even Kate's
shocked, dazed face, no longer filled his mind. It was the suffering
man--trembling on the verge of eternity, shot to death by his own
ball--that appealed to him. And then the suddenness of it all--less than
an hour had passed since this tall, robust young fellow stood before him
on the stairs, hanging upon every word that fell from Kate's lips--and
here he lay weltering in his own blood.
Suddenly his father's hopeful word to the doctor sounded in his ears.
Suppose, after all, Willits SHOULD get well! Then Kate would understand
and forgive him! As this thought developed in his mind his spirits rose.
He scanned the sufferer the more intently, straining his neck,
persuading himself that a slight twitching had crossed the dying man's
face. Almost instantaneously the doctor rose to his feet.
"Quick, Harry!--hand me that brandy! It's just as I hoped--the ball has
ploughed outside the skull--the brain is untouched. It was the shock
that stunned him. Leave the room everybody--you too, colonel--he'll come
to in a minute and must not be excited."
Harry sprang from his chair, a great surge of thankfulness rising in his
heart, caught up the decanter, filled a glass and pressed it to the
sufferer's lips. The colonel sat silent and unmoved. He had seen too
many wounded men revive and then die to be unduly excited. That Willets
still breathed was the only feature of his case that gave him any hope.
Harry shot an inquiring glance at his father, and receiving only a cold
stare in return, hurried from the room, his steps growing lighter as he
ran. Kate must hear the good news and with the least possible delay. He
would not send a message--he would go himself; then he could explain and
relieve her mind. She would listen to his pleading. It was natural she
should have been shocked. He himself had been moved to sympathy by the
sufferer's condition--how much more dreadful, then, must have been the
sight of the wounded man lying there among the flower-pots to a woman
nurtured so carefully and one so sensitive in spirit! But it was all
over--Willits would live--there would be a reconciliation--everything
would be forgiven and everything forgotten.
All these thoughts crowded close in his mind as he rushed up the stairs
two steps at a time to where his sweetheart lay moaning out her heart.
He tapped lightly and her old black mammy opened the door on a crack.
"It's Marse Harry, mistis," she called back over her shoulder--"shall I
let him come in?"
"No!--no!--I don't want to see him; I don't want to see anybody--my
heart is broken!" came the reply in half-stifled sobs.
Harry, held at bay, rested his forehead against the edge of the door so
his voice could reach her the better.
"But Willits isn't going to die, Kate dear. I have just left him; it's
only a scalp wound. Dr. Teackle says he's all right. The shock stunned
him into unconsciousness."
"Oh, I don't care what Dr. Teackle says! It's you, Harry!--You! You
never once thought of me--Oh, why did you do it?"
"I did think of you, Kate! I never thought of anything else--I am not
thinking of anything else now."
"Oh, to think you tried to murder him! You, Harry--whom I loved so!" she
"It was for you, Kate! You heard what he said--you saw it all. It was
for you--for nobody else--for you, my darling! Let me come in--let me
hold you close to me and tell you."
"No!--NO--NO! My heart is broken! Come to me, mammy!"
The door shut gently and left him on the outside, dazed at the outcry,
his heart throbbing with tenderness and an intense, almost ungovernable
impulse to force his way into the room, take her in his arms, and
The closed door brought him to his senses. To-morrow, after all, would
be better, he confessed to himself humbly. Nothing more could be done
to-night. Yes--to-morrow he would tell her all. He turned to descend
the stairs and ran almost into Alec's arms. The old man was trembling
with excitement and seemed hardly able to control himself. He had come
in search of him, and had waited patiently at Kate's door for the
outcome of the interview, every word of which he had overheard.
"Marse Talbot done sont me fer ye, Marse Harry," he said in a low voice;
"he wants ye in his li'l' room. Don't ye take no notice what de young
mistis says; she ain't griebin' fer dat man. Dat Willits blood ain't no
'count, nohow; dey's po' white trash, dey is--eve'ybody knows dat. Let
Miss Kate cry herse'f out; dat's de on'y help now. Mammy Henny'll look
arter her till de mawnin'"--to none of which did Harry make answer.
When they reached the bottom step leading to the long hall the old man
stopped and laid his hand on his young master's shoulder. His voice was
barely audible and two tears stood in his eyes.
"Don't you take no notice ob what happens to-night, son," he whispered.
"'Member ye kin count on ol' Alec. Ain't neber gwineter be nothin' come
'twixt me an' you, son. I ain't neber gwineter git tired lovin' ye--you
won't fergit dat, will ye?"
"No, Alec, but Mr. Willits will recover. Dr. Teackle has just said so."
"Oh, dat ain't it, son--it's you, Marse Harry. Don't let 'em down
ye--stand up an' fight 'em back."
Harry patted the old servant tenderly on the arm to calm his fears. His
words had made but little impression on him. If he had heard them at all
he certainly did not grasp their import. What he was wanted for he could
not surmise--nor did he much care. Now that Kate had refused to see him
he almost wished that Willits's bullet had found its target.
"Where did you say my father was, Alec?" he asked in a listless voice.
"In his li'l' room, son; dey's all in dar, Marse George Temple, Mister
Gilbert--dem two gemmans who stood up wid Mister Willits--dey's all dar.
Don't mind what dey say, honey--jes' you fall back on ol' Alec. I
dassent go in; maybe I'll be yere in de pantry so ye kin git hold o' me.
I'se mos' crazy, Marse Harry--let me git hold oh yo' hand once mo', son.
Oh, my Gawd!--dey sha'n't do nothin' to ye!"
The boy took the old man's hand in his, patted it gently and resumed his
walk. The least said the better when Alec felt like this. It was Kate's
voice that pierced his ears--Kate's sobs that wrenched his heart: "You
never thought of me!" Nothing else counted.
Harry turned the handle of the door and stepped boldly in, his head
erect, his eyes searching the room. It was filled with gentlemen, some
sitting, some standing; not only those who had taken part in the duel,
but three or four others who were in possession of the secret that lay
heavy on everybody's mind.
He looked about him: most of the candles had burned low in the socket;
some had gone out. The few that still flickered cast a dim, ghostly
light. The remains of the night's revel lay on the larger table and the
serving tables:--a half empty silver dish of terrapin, caked over with
cold grease; portion of a ham with the bone showing; empty and partly
filled glasses and china cups from which the toddies and eggnog had been
drunk. The smell of rum and lemons intermingled with the smoke of
snuffed-out candle wicks greeted his nostrils--a smell he remembered for
years and always with a shudder.
There had evidently been a heated discussion, for his father was walking
up and down the room, his face flushed, his black eyes blazing with
suppressed anger, his plum-colored coat unbuttoned as if to give him
more breathing space, his silk scarf slightly awry. St. George Temple
must have been the cause of his wrath, for the latter's voice was
reverberating through the room as Harry stepped in.
"I tell you, Talbot, you shall not--you DARE not!" St. George was
exclaiming, his voice rising in the intensity of his indignation. His
face was set, his eyes blazing; all his muscles taut. He stood like an
avenging knight guarding some pathway. Harry looked on in amazement--he
had never seen his uncle like this before.
The colonel wheeled about suddenly and raised his clenched hand. He
seemed to be nervously unstrung and for a moment to have lost his
"Stop, St. George!" he thundered. "Stop instantly! Not another word, do
you hear me? Don't strain a friendship that has lasted from boyhood or I
may forget myself as you have done. No man can tell me what I shall or
shall not do when my honor is at stake. Never before has a Rutter
disgraced himself and his blood. I am done with him, I tell you!"
"But the man will get well!" hissed St. George, striding forward and
confronting him. "Teackle has just said so--you heard him; we all heard
"That makes no difference; that does not relieve my son."
Rutter had now become aware of Harry's presence. So had the others, who
turned their heads in the boy's direction, but no one spoke. They had
not the lifelong friendship that made St. George immune, and few of them
would have dared to disagree with Talbot Rutter in anything.
"And now, sir"--here the colonel made a step towards where Harry stood,
the words falling as drops of water fall on a bared head--"I have sent
for you to tell you just what I have told these gentlemen. I have
informed them openly because I do not wish either my sense of honor or
my motives to be misunderstood. Your performances to-night have been so
dastardly and so ill-bred as to make it impossible for me ever to live
under the same roof with you again." Harry started and his lips parted
as if to speak, but he made no sound. "You have disgraced your blood and
violated every law of hospitality. Mr. Willits should have been as safe
here as you would have been under his father's roof. If he misbehaved
himself you could have ordered his carriage and settled the affair next
day, as any gentleman of your standing would have done. I have sent for
a conveyance to take you wherever you may wish to go." Then, turning to
St. George, "I must ask you, Temple, to fill my place and see that these
gentlemen get their proper carriages, as I must join Mrs. Rutter, who
has sent for me. Good-night," and he strode from the room.
Harry stared blankly into the faces of the men about him: first at St.
George and then at the others--one after another--as if trying to read
what was passing in their minds. No one spoke or moved. His father's
intentions had evidently been discussed before the boy's arrival and the
final denunciation had, therefore, been received with less of the
deadening effect than it had produced on himself. Nor was it a surprise
to old Alec, who despite his fears had followed Harry noiselessly into
the room, and who had also overheard the colonel's previous outbreak as
to his intended disposition of his young master.
St. George, who during the outburst had stood leaning against the
mantel, his eyes riveted on Harry, broke the silence.
"That, gentlemen," he exclaimed, straightening to his feet, one hand
held high above his head, "is the most idiotic and unjust utterance that
ever fell from Talbot Rutter's lips! and one he will regret to his dying
day. This boy you all know--most of you have known him from childhood,
and you know him, as I do, to be the embodiment of all that is brave and
truthful. He is just of age--without knowledge of the world, his
engagement to Kate Seymour, as some of you are aware, was to be made
known to-night. Willits was drunk or he would not have acted as he did.
I saw it coming and tried to stop him. That he was drunk was Rutter's
own fault, with his damned notions of drowning everybody in drink every
minute of the day and night. I saw the whole affair and heard the
insult, and it was wholly unprovoked. Harry did just what was right, and
if he hadn't I'd either have made Willits apologize or I would have shot
him myself the moment the affair could have been arranged, no matter
where we were. I know perfectly well"--here he swept his eyes
around--"that there is not a man in this room who does not feel as I do
about Rutter's treatment of this boy, and so I shall not comment further
upon it." He dropped his clenched hand and turned to Harry, his voice
still clear and distinct but with a note of tenderness through it. "And
now, that pronunciamentos are in order, my boy, here is one which has
less of the Bombastes Furioso in it than the one you have just listened
to--but it's a damned sight more humane and a damned sight more
fatherly, and it is this:--hereafter you belong to me--you are my son,
my comrade, and, if I ever have a dollar to give to any one, my heir.
And now one thing more, and I don't want any one of you gentlemen within
sound of my voice ever to forget it: When hereafter any one of you
reckon with Harry you will please remember that you reckon with me."
He turned suddenly. "Excuse me one moment, gentlemen, and I will then
see that you get your several carriages. Alec!--where's Alec?"
The old darky stepped out of the shadow. "I'm yere, sah."
"Alec, go and tell Matthew to bring my gig to the front porch--and be
sure you see that your young master's heavy driving-coat is put inside.
Mr. Harry spends the night with me."
The secrecy enjoined upon everybody conversant with the happenings at
Moorlands did not last many hours. At the club, across dinner tables, at
tea, on the street, and in the libraries of Kennedy Square, each detail
was gone over, each motive discussed. None of the facts were
exaggerated, nor was the gravity of the situation lightly dismissed.
Duels were not so common as to blunt the sensibilities. On the contrary,
they had begun to be generally deplored and condemned, a fact largely
due to the bitterness resulting from a famous encounter which had taken
place a year or so before between young Mr. Cocheran, the son of a rich
landowner, and Mr. May--the circumstances being somewhat similar, the
misunderstanding having arisen at a ball in Washington over a reigning
belle, during which Mr. May had thrown his card in Cocheran's face. In
this instance all the requirements of the code were complied with. The
duel was fought in an open space behind Nelson's Hotel, near the
Capitol, Mr. Cocheran arriving at half-past five in the morning in a
magnificent coach drawn by four white horses, his antagonist reaching
the grounds in an ordinary conveyance, the seconds and the two surgeons
on horseback. Both fired simultaneously, with the result that May
escaped unhurt, while Cocheran was shot through the head and instantly
Public opinion, indeed, around Kennedy Square, was, if the truth be
told, undergoing many and serious changes. For not only the duel but
some other of the traditional customs dear to the old regime were
falling into disrepute--especially the open sideboards, synonymous with
the lavish hospitality of the best houses. While most of the older
heads, brought up on the finer and rarer wines, knew to a glass the
limit of their endurance, the younger bloods were constantly losing
control of themselves, a fact which was causing the greatest anxiety
among the mothers of Kennedy Square.
This growing antipathy had been hastened and solidified by another
tragedy quite as widely discussed as the Cocheran and May duel--more so,
in fact, since this particular victim of too many toddies had been the
heir of one of the oldest residents about Kennedy Square--a brilliant
young surgeon, self-exiled because of his habits, who had been thrown
from his horse on the Indian frontier--an Iowa town, really--shattering
his leg and making its amputation necessary. There being but one other
man in the rough camp who had ever seen a knife used--and he but a
student--the wounded surgeon had directed the amputation himself, even
to the tying of the arteries and the bandages and splints. Only then did
he collapse. The hero--and he was a hero to every one who knew of his
coolness and pluck, in spite of his recognized weakness--had returned
to his father's house on Kennedy Square on crutches, there to consult
some specialists, the leg still troubling him. As the cripple's bedroom
was at the top of the first flight of stairs, the steps of which--it
being summer--were covered with China matting, he was obliged to drag
himself up its incline whenever he was in want of something he must
fetch himself. One of these necessities was a certain squat bottle like
those which had graced the old sideboards. Half a dozen times a day
would he adjust his crutches, their steel points preventing his
slipping, and mount the stairs to his room, one step at a time.
Some months after, when the matting was taken up, the mother took her
youngest boy--he was then fifteen--to the steps:
"Do you see the dents of your brother's crutches?--count them. Every
one was a nail in his coffin." They were--for the invalid died that
These marked changes in public opinion, imperceptible as they had been
at first, were gradually paving the way, it may be said, for the dawn of
that new order of things which only the wiser and more farsighted
men--men like Richard Horn--were able to discern. While many of the old
regime were willing to admit that the patriarchal life, with the negro
as the worker and the master as the spender, had seen its best days, but
few of them, at the period of these chronicles, realized that the genius
of Morse, Hoe, and McCormick, and a dozen others, whose inventions were
just beginning to be criticised, and often condemned, were really the
chief factors in the making of a new and greater democracy: that the
cog, the drill, the grate-bar, and the flying shuttle would ere long
supplant the hoe and the scythe; and that when the full flood of this
new era was reached their old-time standards of family pride, reckless
hospitality, and even their old-fashioned courtesy would well-nigh be
swept into space. The storm raised over this and the preceding duel had
they but known it, was but a notch in the tide-gauge of this flood.
"I understand, St. George, that you could have stopped that disgraceful
affair the other night if you had raised your hand," Judge Pancoast had
blurted out in an angry tone at the club the week following. "I did
raise it, judge," replied St. George, calmly drawing off his gloves.
"They don't say so--they say you stood by and encouraged it."
"Quite true," he answered in his dryest voice. "When I raised my hand it
was to drop my handkerchief. They fired as it fell."
"And a barbarous and altogether foolish piece of business, Temple. There
is no justification for that sort of thing, and if Rutter wasn't a
feudal king up in his own county there would be trouble over it. It's
God's mercy the poor fellow wasn't killed. Fine beginning, isn't it, for
a happy married life?"
"Better not have any wife at all, judge, than wed a woman whose good
name you are afraid to defend with your life. There are some of us who
can stand anything but that, and Harry is built along the same lines. A
fine, noble, young fellow--did just right and has my entire confidence
and my love. Think it over, judge," and he strolled into the card-room,
picked up the morning paper, and buried his face in its columns, his
teeth set, his face aflame with suppressed disgust at the kind of blood
running in the judge's veins.
The colonel's treatment of his son also came in for heated discussion.
Mrs. Cheston was particularly outspoken. Such quixotic action on the
ground of safeguarding the rights of a young drunkard like Willits, who
didn't know when he had had enough, might very well do for a
self-appointed autocrat like Rutter, she maintained, but some equally
respectable people would have him know that they disagreed with him.
"Just like Talbot Rutter," she exclaimed in her outspoken, decided
way--" no sense of proportion. High-tempered, obstinate as a mule, and
a hundred years--yes, five hundred years behind his time. And he--
could have stopped it all too if he had listened to me. Did you ever
hear anything so stupid as his turning Harry--the sweetest boy who ever
lived--out of doors, and in a pouring rain, for doing what he would have
done himself! Oh, this is too ridiculous--too farcical. Why, you can't
conceive of the absurdity of it all--nobody can! Gilbert was there and
told me every word of it. You would have thought he was a grand duke or
a pasha punishing a slave--and the funniest thing about it is that he
believes he is a pasha. Oh--I have no patience with such contemptible
family pride, and that's what is at the bottom of it."
Some of the back county aristocrats, on the other hand--men who lived by
themselves, who took their cue from Alexander Hamilton, Lee, and Webb,
and believed in the code as the only means of arbitrating a difficulty
of any kind between gentlemen--stoutly defended the Lord of Moorlands.
"Rutter did perfectly right to chuck the young whelp out of doors.
Outrageous, sir--never is done--nothing less than murder. Ought to be
prosecuted for challenging a man under his own roof--and at night too.
No toss-up for position, no seconds except a parcel of boys. Vulgar,
sir--infernally vulgar, sir. I haven't the honor of Colonel Rutter's
acquaintance--but if I had I'd tell him so--served the brat right--
Richard Horn was equally emphatic, but in a far different way. Indeed he
could hardly restrain himself when discussing it.
"I can think of nothing my young boy Oliver would or could do when he
grows up," he exclaimed fiercely--his eyes flashing, "which would shut
him out of his home and his dear mother's care. The duel is a relic of
barbarism and should be no longer tolerated; it is mob law, really, and
indefensible, with two persons defying the statutes instead of a
thousand. But Rutter is the last man in the world to take the stand he
has, and I sincerely regret his action. There are many bitter days ahead
Nor were the present conditions, aspirations, and future welfare of the
two combatants, and of the lovely girl over whom they had quarrelled,
neglected by the gossipers. No day passed without an extended discussion
of their affairs. Bearers of fresh news were eagerly welcomed both to
toddy and tea tables.
Old Morris Murdoch, who knew Willits's father intimately, being a strong
Clay man himself, arrived at one of these functions with the astounding
information that Willits had called on Miss Seymour, wearing his hat in
her presence to conceal his much-beplastered head. That he had then and
there not only made her a most humble apology for his ill-tempered
outbreak, which he explained was due entirely to a combination of
egg-and-brandy, with a dash of apple-toddy thrown in, but had declared
upon his honor as a gentleman that he would never again touch the
flowing bowl. Whereupon--(and this excited still greater astonishment)
--the delighted young lady had not only expressed her sympathy for his
misfortunes, but had blamed herself for what had occurred!
Tom Tilghman, a famous cross-country rider, who had ridden in post haste
from his country seat near Moorlands to tell the tale--as could be seen
from his boots, which were still covered with mud--boldly asserted of
his own knowledge that the wounded man, instead of seeking his native
shore, as was generally believed, would betake himself to the Red
Sulphur Springs (where Kate always spent the summer)--accompanied by
three saddle horses, two servants, some extra bandages, and his devoted
sister, there to regain what was left of his health and strength. At
which Judge Pancoast had retorted--and with some heat--that Willits
might take a dozen saddle horses and an equal number of sisters, and a
bale of bandages if he were so minded, to the Springs, or any other
place, but he would save time and money if he stayed at home and looked
after his addled head, as no woman of Miss Seymour's blood and breeding
could possibly marry a man whose family escutcheon needed polishing as
badly as did his manners. That the fact--the plain, bold fact--and here
the judge's voice rose to a high pitch--was that Willits was boiling
drunk until Harry's challenge sobered him, and that Kate hated
drunkenness as much as did Harry's mother and the other women who had
started out to revolutionize society.
What that young lady herself thought of it all not even the best-posted
gossip in the club dared to venture an opinion. Moreover, such was the
respect and reverence in which she was held, and so great was the
sympathy felt for her situation, that she was seldom referred to in
connection with Harry or the affair except with a sigh, followed by a
"Too bad, isn't it?--enough to break your heart," and such like
What the Honorable Prim thought of it all was apparent the next day at
the club when he sputtered out with:
"Here's a nice mess for a man of my position to find himself in! Do you
know that I am now pointed out as the prospective father-in-law of a
young jackanapes who goes about with a glass of grog in one hand and a
pistol in the other. I am not accustomed to having my name bandied about
and I won't have it--I live a life of great simplicity, minding my own
business, and I want everybody else to mind theirs. The whole affair is
most contemptible and ridiculous and smacks of the tin-armor age.
Willits should have been led quietly out of the room and put to bed and
young Rutter should have been reprimanded publicly by his father.
Disgraceful on a night like that when my daughter's name was on
After which outburst he had shut himself up in his house, where, so he
told one of his intimates, he intended to remain until he left for the
Red Sulphur Springs, which he would do several weeks earlier than was
his custom--a piece of news which not only confirmed Tom Tilghman's
gossip, but lifted several eyebrows in astonishment and set one or two
loose tongues to wagging.
Out at Moorlands, the point of view varied as the aftermath of the
tragedy developed, the colonel alone pursuing his daily life without
comment, although deep down in his heart a very maelstrom was boiling
Mrs. Rutter, as fate would have it, on hearing that Kate was too ill to
go back to town, had gone the next morning to her bedside, where she
learned for the first time not only of the duel--which greatly shocked
her, leaving her at first perfectly limp and helpless--but of Harry's
expulsion from his father's house--(Alec owned the private wire)--a
piece of news which at first terrified and then keyed her up as tight as
an overstrung violin. Like many another Southern woman, she might shrink
from a cut on a child's finger and only regain her mental poise by a
liberal application of smelling salts, but once touch that boy of
hers--the child she had nourished and lived for--and all the rage of the
she-wolf fighting for her cub was aroused. What took place behind the
closed doors of her bedroom when she faced the colonel and flamed out,
no one but themselves knew. That the colonel was dumfounded--never
having seen her in any such state of mind--goes without saying. That he
was proud of her and liked her the better for it, is also true--nothing
delighted him so much as courage;--but nothing of all this, impressive
as it was, either weakened or altered his resolve.
Nor did he change front to his friends and acquaintances: his honorable
name, he maintained, had been trailed in the mud; his boasted
hospitality betrayed; his house turned into a common shamble. That his
own son was the culprit made the pain and mortification the greater, but
it did not lessen his responsibility to his blood. Had not Foscari, to
save his honor, in the days of the great republic, condemned his own son
Jacopo to exile and death? Had not Virginius slain his daughter? Should
he not protect his own honor as well? Furthermore, was not the young
man's father a gentleman of standing--a prominent man in the State--a
friend not only of his own friend, Henry Clay, but of the governor as
well? He, of course, would not have Harry marry into the family had
there been a marriageable daughter, but that was no reason why Mr.
Willits's only son should not be treated with every consideration. He,
Talbot Rutter, was alone responsible for the honor of his house. When
your right hand offends you cut it off. His right hand HAD offended him,
and he HAD cut it off. Away, then, with the spinning of fine phrases!
And so he let the hornets buzz--and they did swarm and buzz and sting.
As long as his wrath lasted he was proof against their assaults--in fact
their attacks only confirmed him in his position. It was when all this
ceased, for few continued to remonstrate with him after they had heard
his final: "I decline to discuss it with you, madame," or the more
significant: "How dare you, sir, refer to my private affairs without my
permission?"--it was, I say, when all this ceased, and when neither his
wife, who after her first savage outbreak had purposely held her peace,
nor any of the servants--not even old Alec, who went about with
streaming eyes and a great lump in his throat--dared renew their
entreaties for Marse Harry's return, that he began to reflect on his
Soon the great silences overawed him--periods of loneliness when he sat
confronting his soul, his conscience on the bench as judge; his
affections a special attorney:--silences of the night, in which he would
listen for the strong, quick, manly footstep and the closing of the door
in the corridor beyond:--silences of the dawn, when no clatter of hoofs
followed by a cheery call rang out for some one to take
Spitfire:--silences of the breakfast table, when he drank his coffee
alone, Alec tip-toeing about like a lost spirit. Sometimes his heart
would triumph and he begin to think out ways and means by which the past
could be effaced. Then again the flag of his pride would be raised aloft
so that he and all the people could see, and the old hard look would
once more settle in his face, the lips straighten and the thin fingers
tighten. No--NO! No assassins for him--no vulgar brawlers--and it was at
best a vulgar brawl--and this too within the confines of Moorlands,
where, for five generations, only gentlemen had been bred!
And yet, product as he was of a regime that worshipped no ideals but its
own; hide-bound by the traditions of his ancestry; holding in secret
disdain men and women who could not boast of equal wealth and lineage;
dictatorial, uncontradictable; stickler for obsolete forms and
ceremonies--there still lay deep under the crust of his pride the heart
of a father, and, by his standards, the soul of a gentleman.
What this renegade son of his thought of it all; this disturber of his
father's sleeping and waking hours, was far easier to discover. Dazed as
Harry had been at the parental verdict and heart-broken as he still was
over the dire results, he could not, though he tried, see what else he
could have done. His father, he argued to himself, had shot and killed a
man when he was but little older than himself, and for an offence much
less grave than Willits's insult to Kate: he had frequently boasted of
it, showing him the big brass button that had deflected the bullet and
saved his life. So had his Uncle George, five years before--not a dead
man that time, but a lame one--who was still limping around the club and
very good friends the two, so far as he knew. Why then blame HIM? As for
the law of hospitality being violated, that was but one of the
idiosyncrasies of his father, who was daft on hospitality. How could
Willits be his guest when he was his enemy? St. George had begged the
wounded man to apologize; if he had done so he would have extended his
hand and taken him to Kate, who, upon a second apology, would have
extended her hand, and the incident would have been closed. It was
Willits's stubbornness and bad breeding, then, that had caused the
catastrophe--not his own bullet.
Besides no real harm had been done--that is, nothing very serious.
Willits had gained strength rapidly--so much so that he had sat up the
third day. Moreover, he had the next morning been carried to one of the
downstairs bedrooms, where, he understood, Kate had sent her black mammy
for news of him, and where, later on, he had been visited by both Mrs.
Rutter and Kate--a most extraordinary condescension on the young girl's
part, and one for which Willits should be profoundly grateful all the
days of his life.
Nor had Willits's people made any complaint; nor, so far as he could
ascertain, had any one connected with either the town or county
government started an investigation. It was outside the precincts of
Kennedy Square, and, therefore, the town prosecuting attorney (who had
heard every detail at the Chesapeake from St. George) had not been
called upon to act, and it was well known that no minion of the law in
and about Moorlands would ever dare face the Lord of the Manor in any
Why, then, had he been so severely punished?
While all this talk filled the air it is worthy of comment that after
his denunciation of Pancoast's views at the club, St. George never again
discussed the duel and its outcome. His mind was filled with more
important things:--one in particular--a burning desire to bring the
lovers together, no matter at what cost nor how great the barriers. He
had not, despite his silence, altered a hair-line of the opinion he had
held on the night he ordered the gig, fastened Harry's heavy coat around
the young man's shoulders, and started back with him through the rain to
his house on Kennedy Square; nor did he intend to. This, summed up,
meant that the colonel was a tyrant, Willits a vulgarian, and Harry a
hot-headed young knight, who, having been forced into a position where
he could neither breathe nor move, had gallantly fought his way out.
The one problem that gave him serious trouble was the selection of the
precise moment when he should make a strategic move on Kate's heart;
lesser problems were his manner of approaching her and the excuses he
would offer for Harry's behavior. These not only kept him awake at
night, but pursued him like an avenging spirit when he sought the quiet
paths of the old square, the dogs at his heels. The greatest of all
barriers, he felt assured, would be Kate herself. He had seen enough of
her in that last interview, when his tender pleading had restored the
harmonies between herself and Harry, to know that she was no longer the
child whose sweetness he loved, or the girl whose beauty he was proud
of--but the woman whose judgment he must satisfy. Nor could he see that
any immediate change in her mental attitude was likely to occur. Some
time had now passed since Harry's arrival at his house, and every day
the boy had begged for admission at Kate's door, only to be denied by
Ben, the old butler. His mother, who had visited her exiled son almost
daily, had then called on her, bearing two important pieces of news--one
being that after hours of pleading Harry had consented to return to
Moorlands and beg his father's pardon, provided that irate gentleman
should send for him, and the other the recounting of a message of
condolence and sympathy which Willits had sent Harry from his sick-bed,
in which he admitted that he had been greatly to blame. (An admission
which fairly bubbled out of him when he learned that Harry had assisted
Teackle in dressing his wound.)
And yet with all this pressure the young girl had held her own. To every
one outside the Rutter clan she had insisted that she was sorry for
Harry, but that she could never marry a man whose temper she could not
trust. She never put this into words in answering the well-meant
inquiries of such girl friends as Nellie Murdoch, Sue Dorsey, and the
others; then her eyes would only fill with tears as she begged them not
to question her further. Nor had she said as much to her father, who on
one occasion had asked her the plump question--"Do you still intend to
marry that hot-head?"--to which she had returned the equally positive
answer--"No, I never shall!" She reserved her full meaning for St.
George when he should again entreat her--as she knew he would at the
first opportunity--to forget the past and begin the old life once more.
At the end of the second week St. George had made up his mind as to his
course; and at the end of the third the old diplomat, who had dared
defeat before, boldly mounted the Seymour steps. He would appeal to
Harry's love for her, and all would be well. He had done so before,
picturing the misery the boy was suffering, and he would try it again.
If he could only reach her heart through the armor of her reserve she
She answered his cheery call up the stairway in person, greeting him
silently, but with arms extended, leading him to a seat beside her,
where she buried her face in her hands and burst into tears.
"Harry has tried to see you every day, Kate," he began, patting her
shoulders lovingly in the effort to calm her. "I found him under your
window the other night; he walks the streets by the hour, then he comes
home exhausted, throws himself on his bed, and lies awake till
The girl raised her head and looked at him for a moment. She knew what
he had come for--she knew, too, how sorry he felt for her--for
Harry--for everybody who had suffered because of this horror.
"Uncle George," she answered, choking back her tears, speaking slowly,
weighing each word--"you've known me from a little girl--ever since my
dear mother died. You have been a big brother to me many, many times and
I love you for it. If I were determined to do anything that would hurt
me, and you found it out in time, you would come and tell me so,
St. George nodded his head in answer, but he did not interrupt. Her
heart was being slowly unrolled before him, and he would wait until it
was all bare.
"Now," she continued, "the case is reversed, and you want me to do
something which I know will hurt me."
"But you love him, Kate?"
"Yes--that is the worst part of it all," she answered with a stifled
sob--"yes, I love him." She lifted herself higher on the cushions and
put her beautiful arms above her head, her eyes looking into space as if
she was trying to solve the problem of what her present resolve would
mean to both herself and Harry.
St. George began again: "And you remember how--"
She turned impatiently and dropped one hand until it rested on his own.
He thought he had never seen her look so lovely and never so unhappy.
Then she said in pleading tones--her eyes blinded by half-restrained
"Don't ask me to REMEMBER, dear Uncle George--help me to forget! You
can do no kinder thing for both of us."
"But think of your whole future happiness, Kate--think how important it
is to you--to Harry--to everybody--that you should not shut him out of
"I have thought! God knows I have thought until sometimes I think I
shall go mad. He first breaks his promise about drinking and I forgive
him; then he yields to a sudden impulse and behaves like a mad-man and
you ask me to forgive him again. He never once thinks of me, nor of my
humiliation!" Her lips were quivering, but her voice rang clear.
"He thinks of nothing else BUT you," he pleaded. "Let your heart
work--don't throw him into the street as his father has done. He loves
"_I_--throw HIM in the street! He has thrown ME--mortified me before
everybody--behaved like a--No,--I can't--I won't discuss it!"
"No--not another word. I love you too much to let this come between us.
Let us talk of something else--anything--ANYTHING."
The whole chart of her heart had been unrolled. Her head and not her
heart was dominant. He felt, moreover, that no argument of his would be
of any use. Time might work out the solution, but this he could not
hasten. Nor, if the truth be told, did he blame her. It was, from the
girl's point of view, most unfortunate, of course, that the two
calamities of Harry's drunkenness and the duel had come so close
together. Perhaps--and for the first time in his life he weakened before
her tears--perhaps if he had thrown the case of pistols out of the
window, sent one man to his father and the other back to Kennedy Square,
it might all have been different--but then again, could this have been
done, and if it had been, would not all have to be done over again the
next day? At last he asked hopelessly:
"Have you no message for Harry?"
"None," she answered resolutely.
"And you will not see him?"
"No--we can never heal wounds by keeping them open." This came calmly,
and as if she had made up her mind, and in so determined a tone that he
saw it meant an end to the interview.
He rose from his seat and without another word turned toward the door.
She gained her feet slowly, as if the very movement caused her pain; put
her arms around his neck, kissed him on the cheek, followed him to the
door, waved her hand to him as she watched him pick his way across the
square, and threw herself on her lounge in an agony of tears.
That night St. George and Harry sat by the smouldering wood fire; the
early spring days were warm and joyous, but the nights were still cool.
The boy sat hunched up in his chair, his face drawn into lines from the
anxiety of the past week; his mind absorbed in the story that St. George
had brought from the Seymour house. As in all ardent temperaments, these
differences with Kate, which had started as a spark, had now developed
into a conflagration which was burning out his heart. His love for Kate
was not a part of his life--it was ALL of his life. He was ready now for
any sacrifice, no matter how humiliating. He would go down on his knees
to his father if she wished it. He would beg Willits's pardon--he would
abase himself in any way St. George should suggest. He had done what he
thought was right, and he would do it over again under like
circumstances, but he would grovel at Kate's feet and kiss the ground
she stepped on if she required it of him.
St. George, who had sat quiet, examining closely the backs of his finely
modelled hands as if to find some solution of the difficulty written in
their delicate articulated curves, heard his outburst in silence. Now
and then he would call to Todd, who was never out of reach of his
voice--no matter what the hour--to replenish the fire or snuff the
candles, but he answered only in nods and monosyllables to Harry. One
suggestion only of the heart-broken lover seemed to promise any result,
and that was his making it up with his father as his mother had
suggested. This wall being broken down, and Willits no longer an
invalid, perhaps Kate would see matters in a different and more
"But suppose father doesn't send for me, Uncle George, what will I do
"Well, he is your father, Harry."
"And you think then I had better go home and have it out with him?"
St. George hesitated. He himself would have seen Rutter in Hades before
he would have apologized to him. In fact his anger choked him so every
time he thought of the brutal and disgraceful scene he had witnessed
when the boy had been ordered from his home, that he could hardly get
his breath. But then Kate was not his sweetheart, much as he loved her.
"I don't know, Harry. I am not his son," he answered in an undecided
way. Then something the boy's mother had said rose in his mind: "Didn't
your mother say that your father's loneliness without you was having its
effect?--and wasn't her advice to wait until he should send for you?"
"Yes--that was about it."
"Well, your mother would know best. Put that question to her next time
she comes in--I'm not competent to answer it. And now let us go to
bed--you are tired out, and so am I."
Mysterious things are happening in Kennedy Square. Only the very wisest
men know what it is all about--black Moses for one, who tramps the
brick walks and makes short cuts through the dirt paths, carrying his
tin buckets and shouting: "Po' ole Moses--po' ole fellah! O-Y-S-T-E-R-S!
O-Y-STERS!" And Bobbins, the gardener, who raked up last year's autumn
leaves and either burned them in piles or spread them on the flower-beds
as winter blankets. And, of course, Mockburn, the night watchman:
nothing ever happens in and around Kennedy Square that Mockburn doesn't
know of. Many a time has he helped various unsteady gentlemen up the
steps of their houses and stowed them carefully and noiselessly away
inside, only to begin his rounds again, stopping at every corner to
drone out his "All's we-l-l!" a welcome cry, no doubt, to the stowaways,
but a totally unnecessary piece of information to the inhabitants,
nothing worse than a tippler's tumble having happened in the forty years
of the old watchman's service.
I, of course, am in the secret of the mysterious happenings and have
been for more years than I care to admit, but then I go ten better than
Mockburn. And so would you be in the secret had you watched the process
as closely as I have done.
It is always the same!
First the crocuses peep out--dozens of crocuses. Then a spread of tulips
makes a crazy-quilt of a flowerbed; next the baby buds, their delicate
green toes tickled by the south wind, break into laughter. Then the
stately magnolias step free of their pods, their satin leaves falling
from their alabaster shoulders--grandes dames these magnolias! And then
there is no stopping it: everything is let loose; blossoms of peach,
cherry, and pear; flowers of syringa--bloom of jasmine, honeysuckle, and
Virginia creeper; bridal wreath in flowers of white and wistaria in
festoons of purple.
Then come the roses--millions of roses; on single stalks; in clusters,
in mobs; rushing over summer-houses, scaling fences, swarming up
trellises--a riotous, unruly, irresistible, and altogether lovable lot
these roses when they break loose!
And the birds! What a time they are having--thrush, bobolinks,
blackbirds, nightingales, woodpeckers, little pee-wees, all fluttering,
skimming, chirping; bursting their tiny throats for the very joy of
living. And they are all welcome--and it wouldn't make any difference to
them if they hadn't been; they would have risked it anyway, so tempting
are the shady paths and tangled arbors and wide-spreading elms and
butternuts of Kennedy Square.
Soon the skies get over weeping for the lost winter and dry their eyes,
and the big, warm, happy sun sails over the tree-tops or drops to sleep,
tired out, behind the old Seymour house, and the girls come out in their
white dresses and silk sashes and the gallants in their nankeens and
pumps and the old life of out-of-doors begins once more.
And these are not the only changes that the coming of spring has
wrought. What has been going on deep down in the tender, expectant
hearts of root and bulb, eager for expression, had been at work in
Harry's own temperament. The sunshine of St. George's companionship has
already had its effect; the boy is thawing out; his shrinking shyness,
born of his recent trouble, is disappearing like a morning frost. He is
again seen at the club, going first under St. George's lee and then on
his own personal footing.
The Chesapeake, so St. George had urged upon him, was the centre of
news--the headquarters, really, of the town, where not only the current
happenings and gossip of Kennedy Square were discussed, but that of the
country at large. While the bald-heads, of course, would be canvassing
the news from Mexico, which was just beginning to have an ugly look, or
having it out, hammer and tongs, over the defeat of Henry Clay, to which
some rabid politicians had never become reconciled, the younger
gentry--men of Harry's own tastes--would be deploring the poor showing
the ducks were making, owing to the up-river freshets which had spoiled
the wild celery; or recounting the doings at Mrs. Cheston's last ball;
or the terrapin supper at Mr. Kennedy's, the famous writer; or perhaps
bemoaning the calamity which had befallen some fellow member who had
just found seven bottles out of ten of his most precious port corked and
worthless. But whatever the topics, or whoever took sides in their
discussion, none of it, so St. George argued, could fail to interest a
young fellow just entering upon the wider life of a man of the world,
and one, of all others, who needed constant companionship. Then again,
by showing himself frequently within its walls, Harry would become
better known and better liked.
That he was ineligible for membership, being years too young, and that
his continued presence, even as a guest, was against the rules, did not
count in his case, or if it did count, no member, in view of what the
lad had suffered, was willing to raise the question. Indeed, St. George,
in first introducing him, had referred to "my friend, Mr. Rutter," as an
"out of town guest," laughing as he did so, everybody laughing in
return, and so it had gone at that.
At first Harry had dreaded meeting his father's and his uncle's friends,
most of whom, he fancied, might be disposed to judge him too harshly.
But St. George had shut his ears to every objection, insisting that the
club was a place where a man could be as independent as he pleased, and
that as his guest he would be entitled to every consideration.
The boy need not have been worried. Almost every member, young and old,
showed by his manner or some little act of attention that their
sympathies were with the exile. While a few strait-laced old Quakers
maintained that it was criminal to blaze away at your fellow-man with
the firm intention of blowing the top of his head off, and that Harry
should have been hung had Willits died, there were others more
discerning--and they were largely in the majority--who stood up for the
lad however much they deplored the cause of his banishment. Harry, they
argued, had in his brief career been an unbroken colt, and more or less
dissipated, but he at least had not shown the white feather. Boy as he
was, he had faced his antagonist with the coolness of a duellist of a
score of encounters, letting Willits fire straight at him without so
much as the wink of an eyelid; and, when it was all over, had been man
enough to nurse his victim back to consciousness. Moreover--and this
counted much in his favor--he had refused to quarrel with his irate
father, or even answer him. "Behaved himself like a thoroughbred, as he
is," Dorsey Sullivan, a famous duellist, had remarked in recounting the
occurrence to a non-witness. "And I must say, sir, that Talbot served
him a scurvy trick, and I don't care who hears me say it." Furthermore
--and this made a great impression--that rather than humiliate himself,
the boy had abandoned the comforts of his palatial home at Moorlands and
was at the moment occupying a small, second-story back room (all, it is
true, Gentleman George could give him), where he was to be found any
hour of the day or night that his uncle needed him in attendance upon
that prince of good fellows.
One other thing that counted in his favor, and this was conclusive with
the Quakers--and the club held not a few--was that no drop of liquor of
any kind had passed the boy's lips since the eventful night when St.
George prepared the way for their first reconciliation.
Summed up, then, whatever Harry had been in the past, the verdict at the
present speaking was that he was a brave, tender-hearted, truthful
fellow who, in the face of every temptation, had kept his word.
Moreover, it was never forgotten that he was Colonel Talbot Rutter's
only son and heir, so that no matter what the boy did, or how angry the
old autocrat might be, it could only be a question of time before his
father must send for him and everything at Moorlands go on as before.
It was on one of these glorious never-to-be-forgotten spring days, then,
a week or more after St. George had given up the fight with Kate--a day
which Harry remembered all the rest of his life--that he and his uncle
left the house to spend the afternoon, as was now their custom, at the
Chesapeake. The two had passed the early hours of the day at the Relay
House fishing for gudgeons, the dogs scampering the hills, and having
changed their clothes for something cooler, had entered the park by the
gate opposite the Temple Mansion, as being nearest to the club; a path
Harry loved, for he and Kate had often stepped it together--and then
again, it was the shortest cut to her house.
As the beauty and quiet of the place with its mottling of light and
shade took possession of him he slackened his pace, lagging a little
behind his uncle, and began to look about him, drinking in the
loveliness of the season. The very air breathed tenderness, peace, and
comfort. Certainly his father's heart must be softening toward him;
surely his bitterness could not last. No word, it is true, had yet come
to him from Moorlands, though only the week before his mother had been
in to see him, bringing him news of his father and what her son's
absence had meant to every one, old Alec especially. She had not, she
said, revived the subject of the boy's apology; she had thought it
better to wait for the proper opportunity, which might come any day, but
certain it was that his father was most unhappy, for he would shut
himself up hours at a time in his library, locking the door and refusing
to open it, no matter who knocked, except to old John Gorsuch, his man
of business. She had also heard him tossing on his bed at night, or
walking about his room muttering to himself.
Did these things, he wondered on this bright spring morning, mean a
final reconciliation, or was he, after all, to be doomed to further
disappointment? Days had passed since his mother had assured him of this
change in his father, and still no word had come from him. Had he at
last altered his mind, or, worse still, had his old obstinacy again
taken possession of him, hardening his heart so that he would never
relent? And so, with his mind as checkered as the shadow-flecked path
on which they stepped, he pursued his way beneath the wide-spreading
When the two had crossed the street St. George's eye rested upon a group
on the sidewalk of the club. The summer weather generally emptied the
coffee-room of most of its habitues, sending many of them to the
easy-chairs on the sprinkled pavement, one or two tipped back against
the trees, or to the balconies and front steps. With his arm in Harry's
he passed from one coterie to another in the hope that he might catch
some word which would be interesting enough to induce him to fill one of
the chairs, even for a brief half-hour, but nothing reached his ears
except politics and crops, and he cared for neither. Harding--the
pessimist of the club--a man who always had a grievance (and this time
with reason, for the money stringency was becoming more acute every
day), tried to beguile him into a seat beside him, but he shook his
head. He knew all about Harding, and wanted none of his kind of
talk--certainly not to-day.
"Think of it!" he had heard the growler say to Judge Pancoast as he was
about to pass his chair--"the Patapsco won't give me a cent to move my
crops, and I hear all the others are in the same fix. You can't get a
dollar on a house and lot except at a frightful rate of interest. I tell
you everything is going to ruin. How the devil do you get on without
money, Temple?" He was spread out in his seat, his legs apart, his fat
face turned up, his small fox eyes fixed on St. George.
"I don't get on," remarked St. George with a dry smile. He was still
standing. "Why do you ask?" Money rarely troubled St. George; such small
sums as he possessed were hived in this same Patapsco Bank, but the
cashier had never refused to honor one of his checks as long as he had
any money in their vaults, and he didn't think they would begin now.
"Queer question for you to ask, Harding" (and a trifle underbred, he
thought, one's private affairs not being generally discussed at a club).
"Why does it interest you?"
"Well, you always say you despise money and yet you seem happy and
contented, well dressed, well groomed"--here he wheeled St. George
around to look at his back--"yes, got on one of your London coats--
Hello, Harry!--glad to see you," and he held out his hand to the boy.
"But really, St. George, aren't you a little worried over the financial
outlook? John Gorsuch says we are going to have trouble, and John
"No"--drawled St. George--"I'm not worried."
"And you don't think we're going to have another smash-up?" puffed
"No," said St. George, edging his way toward the steps of the club as he
spoke. He was now entirely through with Harding; his financial
forebodings were as distasteful to him as his comments on his clothes
and bank account.
"But you'll have a julep, won't you? I've just sent John for them. Don't
go--sit down. Here, John, take Mr. Temple's order for--"
"No, Harding, thank you." The crushed ice in the glass was no cooler nor
crisper than St. George's tone. "Harry and I have been broiling in the
sun all the morning and we are going to go where it is cool."
"But it's cool here," Harding called after him, struggling to his feet
in the effort to detain him. There was really no one in the club he
liked better than St. George.
"No--we'll try it inside," and with a courteous wave of his hand and a
feeling of relief in his heart, he and Harry kept on their way.
He turned to mount the steps when the sudden pushing back of all the
chairs on the sidewalk attracted his attention. Two ladies were picking
their way across the street in the direction of the club. These, on
closer inspection, proved to be Miss Lavinia Clendenning and her niece,
Sue Dorsey, who had been descried in the offing a few minutes before by
the gallants on the curbstone, and who at first had been supposed to be
heading for Mrs. Pancoast's front steps some distance away, until the
pair, turning sharply, had borne down upon the outside chairs with all
sails set--(Miss Clendenning's skirts were of the widest)--a shift of
canvas which sent every man to his feet with a spring.
Before St. George could reach the group, which he did in advance of
Harry, who held back--both ladies being intimate friends of Kate's--old
Captain Warfield, the first man to gain his feet--very round and fat was
the captain and very red in the face (1812 Port)--was saying with his
most courteous bow:
"But, my dear Miss Lavinia, you have not as yet told us to what we are
indebted for this mark of your graciousness; and Sue, my dear, you grow
more like your dear mother every day. Why are you two angels abroad at
this hour, and what can we do for you?"
"To the simple fact, my dear captain," retorted the irresistible
spinster, spreading her skirts the wider, both arms akimbo--her thin
fingers acting as clothespins, "that Sue is to take her dancing lesson
next door, and as I can't fly in the second-story window, having mislaid
my wings, I must use my feet and disturb everybody. No, gentlemen--don't
move--I can pass."
The captain made so profound a salaam in reply that his hat grazed the
bricks of the sidewalk.
"Let me hunt for them, Miss Lavinia. I know where they are!" he
exclaimed, with his hand on his heart.
"Where?" she asked roguishly, twisting her head on one side with the
movement of a listening bird.
"In heaven, my lady, where they are waiting your arrival," he answered,
with another profound sweep of his hand and dip of his back, his bald
head glistening in the sunlight as he stooped before her.
"Then you will never get near them," she returned with an equally low
curtsy and a laugh that nearly shook her side curls loose.
St. George was about to step the closer to take a hand in the
badinage--he and the little old maid were forever crossing swords--when
her eyes fell upon him. Instantly her expression changed. She was one of
the women who had blamed him for not stopping the duel, and had been on
the lookout for him for days to air her views in person.
"So you are still in town, are you?" she remarked frigidly in lowered
tones. "I thought you had taken that young firebrand down to the Eastern
Shore to cool off."
St. George frowned meaningly in the effort to apprise her ladyship that
Harry was within hearing distance, but Miss Lavinia either did not, or
would not, understand.
"Two young boobies, that's what they are, breaking their hearts over
each other," she rattled on, gathering the ends of her cape the closer.
"Both of them ought to be spanked and put to bed. Get them into each
other's arms just as quick as you can. As for Talbot Rutter, he's the
biggest fool of the three, or was until Annie Rutter got hold of him.
Now I hear he is willing to let Harry come back, as if that would do any
good. It's Kate who must be looked after; that Scotch blood in her veins
makes her as pig-headed as her father. No--I don't want your arm,
sir--get out of my way."
If the courtiers heard--and half of them did--they neither by word or
expression conveyed that fact to Harry or St. George. It was not
intended for their ears, and, therefore, was not their property. With
still more profound salutations from everybody, the three bareheaded men
escorted them to the next stoop, the fourth going ahead to see that the
door was properly opened, and so the ladies passed on, up and inside the
house. This over, the group resumed its normal condition on the
sidewalk, the men regaining their seats and relighting their cigars (no
gentleman ever held one in evidence when ladies were present)--fresh
orders being given to the servants for the several interrupted mixtures
with which the coterie were wont to regale themselves.
Harry, who had stood with shoulders braced against a great tree on the
sidewalk, had heard every word of the old maid's outburst, and an
unrestrained burst of joy had surged up in his heart. His father was
coming round! Yes--the tide was turning--it would not be long before
Kate would be in his arms!
St. George held no such sanguine view, although he made no comment. In
fact the outbreak had rather depressed him. He knew something of
Talbot's stubbornness and did not hope for much in that direction, nor,
if the truth be told, did he hope much in Kate's. Time alone could heal
her wounds, and time in the case of a young girl, mistress of herself,
beautiful, independent, and rich, might contain many surprises.
It was with a certain sense of relief, therefore, that he again sought
the inside of the club. Its restful quiet would at least take his mind
from the one subject which seemed to pursue him and which Miss
Clendenning's positive and, as he thought, inconsiderate remarks had so
Before he had reached the top step his face broke out into a broad
smile. Instantly his spirits rose. Standing in the open front door, with
outstretched hand, was the man of all others he would rather have
seen--Richard Horn, the inventor.
"Ah, St. George, but I'm glad to see you!", cried Richard. "I have been
looking for you all the afternoon and only just a moment ago got sight
of you on the sidewalk. I should certainly have stepped over to your
house and looked you up if you hadn't come. I've got the most
extraordinary thing to read to you that you have ever listened to in the
whole course of your life. How well you look, and what a fine color you
have, and you too, Harry. You are in luck, my boy. I'd like to stay a
month with Temple myself."
"Make it a year, Richard," cried St. George, resting his hand
affectionately on the inventor's shoulder. "There isn't a chair in my
house that isn't happier when you sit in it. What have you discovered?--
some new whirligig?"
"No, a poem. Eighteen to twenty stanzas of glorious melody imprisoned in
"One of your own?" laughed St. George--one of his merry vibrating laughs
that made everybody happier about him. The sight of Richard had swept
all the cobwebs out of his brain.
"No, you trifler!--one of Edgar Allan Poe's. None of your scoffing, sir!
You may go home in tears before I am through with you. This way, both of
The three had entered the coffee-room now, Richard's arm through St.
George's, Harry following close. The inventor drew out the chairs one
after another, and when they were all three seated took a missive from
his pocket and spread it out on his knee, St. George and Harry keeping
their eyes on his every movement.
"Here's a letter, St. George"--Richard's voice now fell to a serious
key--"which I have just received from your friend and mine, Mr. N. P.
Willis. In it he sends me this most wonderful poem cut from his paper--
the Mirror--and published, I discover to my astonishment, some months
back. I am going to read it to you if you will permit me. It certainly
is a most remarkable production. The wonder to me is that I haven't seen
it before. It is by that Mr. Poe you met at my house some years ago--you
remember him?--a rather sad-looking man with big head and deep eyes?"
Temple nodded in answer, and Harry's eyes glistened: Poe was one of his
university's gods. "Just let me read to you what Willis says"--here he
glanced down the letter sheet: "'Nothing, I assure you, my dear Horn,
has made so great a stir in literary circles as this "Raven" of Poe's. I
am sending it to you knowing that you are interested in the man. If I do
not mistake I first met Poe one night at your house.' And a very
extraordinary night it was, St. George," said Richard, lifting his eyes
from the sheet. "Poe, if you remember, read one of his stories for us,
and both Latrobe and Kennedy were so charmed that they talked of nothing
else for days."
St. George remembered so clearly that he could still recall the tones of
Poe's voice, and the peculiar lambent light that flashed from out the
poet's dark eyes--the light of a black opal. He settled himself back in
his chair to enjoy the treat the better. This was the kind of talk he
wanted to-day, and Richard Horn, of all others, was the man to conduct
The inventor's earnestness and the absorbed look on St. George's and
Harry's faces, and the fact that Horn was about to read aloud, had
attracted the attention of several near-by members, who were already
straining their ears, for no one had Richard's gift for reading.
In low, clear tones, his voice rising in intensity as the weird pathos
of the several stanzas gripped his heart, he unfolded the marvellous
drama until the very room seemed filled with the spirit of both the man
and the demon. Every stanza in his clear enunciation seemed a separate
string of sombre pearls, each syllable aglow with its own inherent
beauty. When he ceased it was as if the soul of some great 'cello had
stopped vibrating, leaving only the memory of its melody. For a few
seconds no one moved nor spoke. No one had ever heard Richard in finer
voice nor had they ever listened to more perfect rhythmic beauty. So
great was the effect on the audience that one old habitue, in speaking
of it afterward, insisted that Richard must have seen the bird roosting
over the door, so realistic was his rendering.
Harry had listened with bated breath, absorbing every tone and
inflection of Richard's voice. He and Poe had been members of the same
university, and the poet had always been one of his idols--the man of
all others he wanted most to know. Poe's former room opening into the
corridor had invariably attracted him. He had frequently looked about
its bare walls wondering how so great an inspiration could have started
from such meagre surroundings. He had, too, with the romantic
imagination of a boy, pictured to himself the kind of man he was, his
looks, voice, and manner, and though he had never seen the poet in the
flesh, somehow the tones of Richard's voice recalled to him the very
picture he had conjured up in his mind in his boyhood days.
St. George had also listened intently, but the impression was quite
different from the one made on the younger man. Temple thought only of
Poe's despondency, of his striving for a better and happier life; of his
poverty--more than once had he gone down into his own pockets to relieve
the poor fellow's urgent necessities, and he was still ready to do it
again--a readiness in which he was almost alone, for many of the
writer's earlier friends had of late avoided meeting him whenever he
passed through Kennedy Square. Even Kennedy, his life-long friend, had
begun to look upon him as a hopeless case.
This antipathy was also to be found in the club. Even with the memory of
Richard's voice in their ears one of the listeners had shrugged his
shoulders, remarking with a bitter laugh that musical as was the poem,
especially as rendered by Richard, it was, after all, like most of Poe's
other manuscripts, found in a bottle, or more likely "a bottle found in
a manuscript," as that crazy lunatic couldn't write anything worth
reading unless he was half drunk. At which St. George had blazed out:
"Hush, Bowdoin! You ought to be willing to be blind drunk half your time
if you could write one stanza of it! Please let me have it, Richard,"
and he took the sheet from his friend's hand, that he and Harry might
read it at their leisure when they reached home.
Harry's blood had also boiled at the rude thrust. While under the spell
of Richard's voice a cord in his own soul had vibrated as does a glass
globe when it responds in perfect harmony to a note from a violin. He
too had a Lenore whose loss had wellnigh broken his heart. This in
itself was an indissoluble bond between them. Besides, he could
understand the poet as Alec and his mother and his Uncle George
understood himself. He had begun now to love the man in his heart.
With his mind filled with these thoughts, his hunger for Kate aroused
tenfold by the pathos and weird beauty of what he had just heard, he
left the group of men who were still discussing the man and his verses,
and joined his uncle outside on the top step of the club's high stoop,
from which could be seen the full length of the sun-flecked street on
which the clubhouse stood, as well as the park in all its spring
Unconsciously his eyes wandered across the path where Kate's house
stood. He could see the tall chimneys and the slope of the quaint roof,