Part 3 out of 7
and but that the foliage hid the lower part, could have seen Kate's own
windows. She was still at home, he had heard, although she was expected
to leave for the Red Sulphur any day.
Suddenly, from away up the street, past the corner of the park, there
reached his ears a low winding note, which grew louder as it turned the
corner, followed by the rattle of wheels and the clatter of horses'
feet. He leaned forward and craned his head in the direction of the
sound, his heart in his throat, the blood mounting to his cheeks. If
that was not his father's horn it was wonderfully like it. At the same
moment a coach-and-four swept in sight, driven by a man in a
whitey-brown coat and stiff furry hat, with two grooms behind and a
coachman next to him on the box. It was heading straight for the club.
Every man was on his feet.
"By Jove!--it's Rutter. Bowdoin!--Clayton!--here comes the colonel!"
Again the horn gave out a long withering, wiry note ringing through the
leaves and along the brick pavement, and the next instant the leaders
were gathered up, the wheel-horses hauled taut, the hub of the front
wheel of the coach halting within an inch of the horse-block of the
"Bravo, Rutter! Best whip in the county! Not a man in England could have
done it better. Let me help you down!"
The colonel shook his head good-humoredly, rose in his seat, shifted a
bunch of violets to his inner lapel, slipped off his driving-coat, threw
it across the rail, dropped his whip in the socket, handed his heavy
gloves to his groom, and slid gracefully to the sidewalk. There he shook
hands cordially with the men nearest him, excused himself for a moment
until he had inspected his off leader's forefoot--she had picked up a
stone on the way in from Moorlands--patted the nigh wheel-horse, stamped
his own feet lustily as if to be sure he was all there, and, with a
lordly bow to those about him, slowly mounted the steps of the club.
Harry had already risen to his feet and stood trembling, one hand
clutching the iron railing that guarded the marble steps. A great throb
of joy welled up in his throat. His mother was right--the loneliness had
overpowered his father; he still loved him, and Miss Clendenning's
prediction was coming true! Not only was he willing to forgive him, but
he had come himself to take him home. He could hardly wait until his
father reached his side, so eager was he to open his arms and hands and
his lips in apology--and Kate!--what joy would be hers!
St. George had also gained his feet. What had brought the colonel into
town, he said to himself, and in such state--and at this hour of the
day, too? Could it be that Harry was the cause?
"How were the roads, Talbot?" he called out in his customary cheery
tones. He would start fair, anyway.
The colonel, who, head down, had been mounting the marble steps one at a
time, inspecting each slab as he climbed, after the manner of men
thoroughly satisfied with themselves, and who at the same time are
conscious of the effect of their presence on those about them, raised
his head and gazed in astonishment at the speaker. Then his body
straightened up and he came to a stand-still. He looked first into St.
George's face, then into Harry's, with a cold, rigid stare; his lips
shut tight, his head thrown back, his whole frame stiff as an iron
bar--and without a word of recognition of any kind, passed through the
open door and into the wide hall. He had cut both of them dead.
Harry gave a half-smothered cry of anguish and turned to follow his
father into the club.
St. George, purple with rage, laid his hand on the boy's arm, so tight
that the fingers sank into the flesh: there were steel clamps inside
these delicate palms when occasion required.
"Keep still," he hissed--"not a word, no outburst. Stay here until I
come for you. Stop, Rutter: stand where you are!" The two were abreast
of each other now. "You dare treat your son in that way? Horn
--Murdoch--Warfield--all of you come out here! What I've got to say to
Talbot Rutter I want you to hear, and I intend that not only you but
every decent man and woman in Kennedy Square shall hear!"
The colonel's lips quivered and his face paled, but he did not flinch,
nor did his eyes drop.
"You are not a father, Talbot--you are a brute! There is not a dog in
your kennels that would not treat his litter better than you have
treated Harry! You turned him out in the night without a penny to his
name; you break his mother's heart; you refuse to hear a word he has to
say, and then you have the audacity to pass him on the steps of this
club where he is my guest--my guest, remember--look him squarely in the
face and ignore him. That, gentlemen, is what Talbot Rutter did one
minute ago. You have disgraced your blood and your name and you have
laid up for your old age untold misery and suffering. Never, as long as
I live, will I speak to you again, nor shall Harry, whom you have
humiliated! Hereafter _I_ am his father! Do you hear?"
During the whole outburst the colonel had not moved a muscle of his face
nor had he shifted his body a quarter of an inch. He stood with his back
to the door through which could be seen the amazed faces of his
fellow-members--one hand tight shut behind his back, the other loose by
his side, his eyes fixed on his antagonist. Then slowly, one word at a
time, as if he had purposely measured the intervals of speech, he said,
in a voice hardly heard beyond the door, so low was it:
"Yes, by God!--I am, and forever!"
"Then, gentlemen"--and he waved his hand courteously to the astounded
listeners--"may I ask you all to join me? John, bring the juleps!"
All the way back to his house St. George's wrath kept him silent. He had
rarely been so stirred. He was not a brawler--his whole life had been
one of peace; his whole ambition to be the healer of differences, and
yet there were some things he could not stand. One of these was cruelty
to a human being, and Rutter's public disowning of Harry was cruelty of
the most contemptible kind. But one explanation of such an outrage was
possible--the man's intolerable egoism, added to his insufferable
conceit. Only once did Temple address Harry, walking silently by his
side under the magnolias, and then only to remark, more to himself than
to his companion--"It's his damned, dirty pride, Harry--that's what it
Harry also held his peace. He had no theories regarding his father's
conduct: only facts confronted him, one being that he had purposely
humiliated him before the men who had known him from a boy, and with
whom his future life must be cast. The end had come now. He was adrift
without a home. Even Kate was lost. This last attack of his father's
would widen the breach between them, for she would never overlook this
last stigma when she heard of it, as she certainly must. Nobody would
then be left on his side except his dear mother, the old house servants,
and St. George, and of these St. George alone could be of any service to
It had all been so horrible too, and so undeserved--worse than anything
he had ever dreamed of; infinitely worse than the night he had been
driven from Moorlands. Never in all his life had he shown his father
anything but obedience and respect; furthermore, he had loved and
admired him; loved his dash and vigor; his superb physique for a man of
his years--some fifty odd--loved too his sportsmanlike qualities--not a
man in the county was his equal in the saddle, and not a man in his own
or any other county could handle the ribbons so well. If his father had
not agreed with him as to when and where he should teach a vulgarian
manners, that had been a question about which gentlemen might differ,
but to have treated him with contempt, to insult him in public, leaving
him no chance to defend himself--force him, really, into a position
which made it impossible for him to strike back--was altogether a
different thing, and for that he would never, never forgive him.
Then a strange thing happened in the boy's mind. It may have been the
shifting of a grain of gray matter never called into use before; or it
may have been due to some stranded red corpuscle which, dislodged by the
pressure he had lately been called upon to endure, had rushed headlong
through his veins scouring out everything in its way until it reached
his thinking apparatus. Whatever the cause, certain it was that the
change in the boy's view of life was as instantaneous as it was radical.
And this was quite possible when his blood is considered. There had
been, it is true, dominating tyrants way back in his ancestry, as well
as spend-thrifts, drunkards, roysterers, and gamesters, but so far as
the records showed there had never been a coward. That old fellow De
Ruyter, whose portrait hung at Moorlands and who might have been his
father, so great was the resemblance, had, so to speak, held a shovel in
one hand and a sword in the other in the days when he helped drown out
his own and his neighbors' estates to keep the haughty don from gobbling
up his country. One had but to look into Harry's face to be convinced
that he too would have followed in his footsteps had he lived in that
It was when the boy, smarting under his father's insult, was passing
under the blossoms of a wide-spreading magnolia, trying to get a
glimpse of Kate's face, if by any chance she should be at her window,
that this grain of gray matter, or lively red corpuscle--or whatever it
might have been--forced itself through. The breaking away was
slow--little by little--as an underground tunnel seeks an opening--but
the light increased with every thought-stroke, its blinding intensity
becoming so fierce at last that he came to a halt, his eyes on the
ground, his whole body tense, his mind in a whirl.
Suddenly his brain acted.
To sit down and snivel would do no good; to curse his father would be
useless and wicked; to force himself on Kate sheer madness.
But--BUT--BUT--he was twenty-two!--in perfect health and not ashamed to
look any man in the face. St. George loved him--so did his precious
mother, and Alec, and a host of others. Should he continue to sit in
ashes, swaddled in sackcloth--or should he meet the situation like a
man? Then as his mental vision became accustomed to the glare, two
things stood out clear in his mind--to win Kate back, no matter at what
cost--and to compel his father's respect.
His mother was the first to hear the music of this new note of resolve,
and she had not long to wait. She had come to town with the
colonel--indeed it was at her request that he had ordered the coach
instead of coming in on horseback, as was his custom--and was at the
moment quietly resting on St. George's big sofa.
"It is all over, mother," Harry cried in a voice so firm and determined
that his mother knew at once something unusual had happened--"and you
might as well make up your mind to it--I have. Father walked into the
club five minutes ago, looked me square in the face, and cut me dead;
and he insulted Uncle George too, who gave him the greatest dressing
down you ever heard in your life." He had learned another side of his
uncle's character--one he should never cease to be grateful for--his
outspoken defence of him before his equals.
Mrs. Rutter half rose from her seat in blank astonishment. She was a
frail little woman with pale-blue eyes and a figure like a curl of
"Your--father--did not--speak--to--you!" she exclaimed excitedly. "You
say--your father--But how dare he!"
"But he did!" replied Harry in a voice that showed the incident still
rankled in his mind--"and right in the club, before everybody."
"And the other gentlemen saw it?" She stood erect, her delicate body
tightening up. There was a strain of some old-time warrior in her blood
that would brook no insult to her son.
"Yes, half a dozen gentlemen saw it. He did it purposely--so they COULD
see. I'll never forgive him for it as long as I live. He had no business
to treat me so!" His voice choked as he spoke, but there was no note of
surrender or of fear.
She looked at him in a helpless sort of way. "But you didn't answer
back, did you, my son?" This came in a tone as if she feared to hear the
details, knowing the boy's temperament, and his father's.
"I didn't say a word; Uncle George wouldn't let me. I'm glad now he
stopped me, for I was pretty mad, and I might have said something I
would have been sorry for." The mother gave a sigh of relief, but she
did not interrupt, nor did she relax the tautness of her body. "You
ought to have heard Uncle George, though!" Harry rushed on. "He told him
there was not a dog at Moorlands who would not have treated his puppy
better than he had me--and another thing he told him--and that was that
after to-day I was HIS son forever!"
St. George had been standing at the front window with his back to them,
looking out upon the blossoms. At this last outburst he turned, and said
over his shoulder:
"Yes--that's true, Annie--that's what I said and what I mean. There is
no use wasting any more time over Talbot, and I don't intend to."
"But Mr. Rutter will get over his temper." (She never called him by any
"Then he will have to come here and say so. I shall never step foot in
his house until he does, nor will Harry. As to his forgiving Harry--the
boot is on the other leg; it is Talbot, not the boy he outraged, who
must straighten out to-day's work. There was not a man who heard him who
was not ashamed of him. Oh!--I have no patience with this sort of thing!
The only son he's got--his only child! Abominable--unforgivable! And it
will haunt him to his dying day! Poor as I am, alone in the world and
without a member of my family above ground, I would not change places
with him. No--Annie--I know how you feel, and God knows I have felt for
you all these years, but I tell you the end has come! It's
finished--over--I told him so to his face, and I mean it!"
The slight body sank back into her chair and her eyes filled with tears.
Harry knelt beside her and put his arms about her. This mother, frail as
she was, had always been his refuge and comfort: now he must do the
comforting! (Keep moving, old red corpuscle, there is a lot of work
ahead of you!)
"Don't worry, you dear little mother," he said tenderly. "I don't know
how it's coming out, but it will come out somehow. Let father go: Kate
is the only thing that counts now. I don't blame her for anything she
has done, and I don't blame myself either. All I know is that everything
has gone wrong. But, wrong or right, I'm going to stay here just as long
as Uncle George will let me. He's been more of a father to me than my
own. It's you I can't get along without, you precious little mother,"
and he patted her pale cheeks. "Won't you come in every day--and bring
Alec too?" then, as if he had not yet asked her consent--"You don't mind
my being here, do you?"
She drew his head close to her lips and kissed his cheek. "No, my son, I
don't mind--I'm glad. Every night of my life I thank my Maker that you
are here." She raised her eyes to St. George, who stood looking down
upon them both, and in a voice barely audible, an unbidden sob choking
her utterance, faltered--"It's only one more proof of your goodness,
He raised his hand in protest and a faint smile crossed his face. "Don't
talk that way. Annie."
"I will--it's true. It is a proof of your goodness. I have never
deserved it. I don't now--but you never fail me." Her voice was clearer
now--her cheeks, too, had regained some of their color. Harry listened
wonderingly, his arm still around her.
"I couldn't do anything else, Annie--nobody could under the
circumstances." His voice had dropped almost to a whisper.
"But it was for me you did it, St. George. I would rather think of it
that way; it makes it easier. Say you did it for me."
St. George stooped down, raised her thin white hand to his lips, kissed
it reverently, and without a word of any kind walked to the door of his
bedroom and shut it behind him.
Mrs. Rutter's hand dropped to her lap and a smile of intense relief
passed over her face. She neither looked after St. George, nor did she
offer any explanation to Harry; she merely bent forward and continued
her caresses, stroking the boy's glossy hair, patting the white temples
with her delicate fingers, smoothing the small, well-set ears and the
full brown throat, kissing his forehead, her eyes reading his face,
wondering if she had spoken too freely and yet regretting nothing: what
she had said had come straight from her heart and she was not ashamed of
The boy lay still, his head against her breast. That his mother had been
stirred even in a greater degree over what St. George had said to her
than she had been by his father's treatment of him was evident in the
trembling movement of the soft hands caressing his hair and in the way
her breath came and went. Under her soothing touch his thoughts went
back to the events of the morning:--his uncle's defiant tones as he
denounced his father; his soft answer to his mother; her pleading words
in reply, and then the reverent kiss.
Suddenly, clear as the tones of a far-off convent bell sifting down from
some cloud-swept crag, there stole into his mind a memory of his
childhood--a legend of long ago, vague and intangible--one he could not
put into words--one Alec had once hinted at. He held his breath trying
to gather up the loose ends--to make a connected whole; to fit the parts
together. Then, as one blows out a candle, leaving total darkness, he
banished it all from his mind.
"Mother dear!--mother dear!" he cried tenderly, and wound his arms the
closer about her neck.
She gathered him up as she had done in the old days when he was a child
at her breast; all the intervening years seemed blotted out. He was her
baby boy once more--her constant companion and unending comfort: the one
and only thing in her whole life that understood her.
Soon the warmth and strength of the full man began to reach her heart.
She drew him still closer, this strong son who loved her, and in the
embrace there grew a new and strange tenderness--one born of confidence.
It was this arm which must defend her now; this head and heart which
must guide her. She was no longer adrift.
The two had not moved when St. George re-entered the room some moments
later. Harry's head still lay on her breast, the thin, transparent hands
tight about his neck.
The colonel's treatment of Harry at the club had cleared the air of any
doubt that either the boy or St. George might have had concerning
Rutter's frame of mind. Henceforth the boy and the man would conduct
their lives as if the Lord of Moorlands did not exist.
So the boy unpacked the things which Alec had brought in, and with his
mother's assistance--who came in once a week--hung up his
hunting-clothes in the closet, racked up his guns and fishing-rods over
the mantel, and suspended his favorite saddle by a stirrup on a hook in
the hall. Then the two had set out his books and miniatures; one of his
mother, which he kissed tenderly, with the remark that it wasn't half as
pretty as the original, and then propped up in the place of honor in the
middle of his desk, and another of his father, which he placed on an
adjoining table--as well as his few belongings and knickknacks. And so
the outcast settled down determined not only to adapt himself to the
comforts--or want of them--to be found under St. George's roof, but to
do it cheerfully, gratefully, and like a man and a gentleman.
To none of all this did his father offer a single objection. "Make a
clean sweep of Mr. Harry Rutter's things," he had said to Alec, "so that
I may be relieved from the annoyance of a second delivery."
Alec had repeated the order to Harry word for word, adding: "Don't you
sass back, Marse Harry--let him blow hisse'f out--he don't mean nothin'.
He's dat mad he's crazy--gits dat way sometimes--den purty soon he's fit
to bust hisse'f wide open a-cryin'! I see him do dat once when you
warn't mo'n so high, and de doctor said you was daid fo' sho'."
Harry made no reply, but it did not ruffle his temper. His duty was no
longer to be found at Moorlands; his Uncle George claimed him. All his
hours would now be devoted to showing him how grateful he was for his
protection and guidance. Time enough for his father, and time enough for
Kate, for that matter, should the clouds ever lift--as lift they
would--but his Uncle George first, last, and all the time.
And St. George appreciated it to the full. Never had he been so happy.
Even the men at the club saw the change, and declared he looked ten
years younger--fifteen really, when Harry was with him, which was
almost always the case--for out of consideration for St. George and the
peculiar circumstances surrounding the boy's condition, his birth and
station, and the pride they took in his pluck, the committee had at last
stretched the rule and had sent Mr. Henry Gilmor Rutter of
Moorlands--with special reference to "Moorlands," a perennial invitation
entitling him to the club's privileges--a card which never expired
because it was systematically renewed.
And it was not only at the club that the two men were inseparable. In
their morning walks, the four dogs in full cry; at the races; in the
hunts, when some one loaned both Harry and his uncle a mount--at night,
when Todd passed silently out, leaving all the bottled comforts behind
him--followed by--"Ah, Harry!--and you won't join me? That's right, my
son--and I won't ask you," the two passed almost every hour of the day
and night together. It was host one minute and father the next.
And this life, if the truth be told, did not greatly vary from the one
the boy had always led, except that there was more of town and less of
country in it than he had heretofore been accustomed to. The freedom
from all care--for the colonel had trained Harry to neither business nor
profession--was the same, and so was the right to employ his time as he
pleased. At Moorlands he was busy over his horses and dogs, his sporting
outfits, riding to hounds, cock-fights--common in those days--and, of
course, assisting his father and mother in dispensing the hospitality of
the house. In Kennedy Square St. George was his chief occupation, and of
the two he liked the last the best. What he had hungered for all his
life was sympathy and companionship, and this his father had never given
him; nor had he known what it was since his college days. Advice, money,
horses, clothes, guns--anything and everything which might, could, or
would redound to the glory of the Rutters had been his for the asking,
but the touch of a warm hand, the thrill in the voice when he had done
something to please and had waited for an acknowledgment--that had never
come his way. Nothing of this kind was needed between men, his father
would say to Harry's mother--and his son was a man now. Had their child
been a daughter, it would have been quite another thing, but a son was
to be handled differently--especially an only son who was sole heir to
one's entire estate.
And yet it must not be thought that the outcast spent his time in sheer
idleness. St. George would often find him tucked away in one of his big
chairs devouring some book he had culled from the old general's library
in the basement--a room adjoining the one occupied by a firm of young
lawyers--Pawson & Pawson (only one brother was alive)--with an entrance
on the side street, it being of "no use to me" St. George had said--"and
the rent will come in handy." Tales of the sea especially delighted the
young fellow--the old admiral's blood being again in evidence--and so
might have been the mother's fine imagination. It was Defoe and Mungo
Park and Cooke who enchained the boy's attention, as well as many of the
chronicles of the later navigators. But of the current literature of the
day--Longfellow, Margaret Fuller, Hawthorne, and Emerson--no one
appealed to him as did the man Poe. He and St. George had passed many an
hour discussing him. Somehow the bond of sympathy between himself and
the poet had become the stronger. Both had wept bitter tears over the
calamities that had followed an unrequited love.
It was during one of these talks--and the poet was often under
discussion--that St. George had suddenly risen from his chair, lighted a
candle, and had betaken himself to the basement--a place he seldom
visited--from which he brought back a thin, crudely bound, and badly
printed, dust-covered volume bearing the title "Tamerlane:--by a
Bostonian." This, with a smile he handed to Harry. Some friend had given
him the little book when it was first published and he had forgotten it
was in the house until he noted Harry's interest in the author. Then
again, he wanted to see whether it was the boy's literary taste, never
much in evidence, or his romantic conception of the much-talked-of poet,
which had prompted his intense interest in the man.
"Read these poems, Harry, and tell me who wrote them," said St. George,
dusting the book with a thrash of his handkerchief and tossing it to the
The boy caught it, skimmed through the thin volume, lingered over one or
two pages, absorbing each line, and replied in a decided and delighted
voice: "The same man who wrote 'The Raven,' of course--there can't be
any doubt of it. I can hear Mr. Horn's voice in every line. Why didn't
you let me have it before?"
"Are you sure?" asked St. George, watching him closely.
"Am I sure?--of course I am! Listen to this:
"'We grew in age--and--love--together, Roaming the forest and the
"That's Kate and me, Uncle George," and he smiled sadly. "And then this
"'I saw no heaven but in her eyes.'
"And then these lines in 'The Raven'--wait--I will read them." He had the
sheet of paper in his pocket which Richard Horn had read from at the
club, and knew the poem now by heart:
"'Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn, It
shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels call Lenore'--
"That's me again. I wish I could read it like Mr. Horn. What a voice--so
deep--so musical--like a great organ, or, rather, like one of the big
strings on his violin."
"And what a mind, too, Harry," rejoined St. George. "Richard is a long
way ahead of his time. His head is full of things that few around here
understand. They hear him play the violin or read, and some go away
calling him a genius, but when he talks to them about the way the
railroads are opening up, and the new telegraph this man Morse is at
work on, and what is going to come of it--or hear him discuss the
development of the country along scientific lines, they shrug their
shoulders and tap their foreheads. You want to talk to him every chance
you get. That is one reason I am glad they let you permanently into the
club, for he is too busy in his work-shop at home to speak to anybody.
Nobody will do you so much good--and he likes you, Harry. He said to me
only the other night when I was dining with him--the night you were at
Mrs. Cheston's--that he felt sorry for you; that it was not your fault,
or the fault of your father--but that you both had been caught in the
ebb-tide of a period."
Harry laughed: "What did he mean by that?"
"I'll be hanged if I know. You made so good a guess on the Tamerlane,
that it's just occurred to me to try you on this," and St. George
laughed heartily. (St. George was adrift on the ebb-tide himself did he
but know it.)
Harry thought earnestly for a moment, pondering upon what the inventor
could have had in his mind. It couldn't have been politics that Mr. Horn
meant; nor failure of the crops; nor the way the slaves were treated.
None of these things affected him. Indeed none of them did he know
anything of. Nor was he an expert on duelling. It must have been Kate.
Yes--of course--it was Kate and her treatment of him. The "tide" was
what had swept them apart.
"Oh, I know," he cried in an animated tone. "He meant Kate. Tell
me--what did he say about her?" He had searched his books for some
parallel from which to draw a conclusion, but none of them had given him
any relief. May be Mr. Horn had solved the problem.
"He said she was the first of the flood, though he was mighty sorry for
you both; and he said, too, that, as she was the first to strike out for
the shore, Kennedy Square ought to build a triumphal arch for her," and
St. George looked quizzically at Harry.
"Well, do you think there is any common sense in that?" blurted out the
boy, twisting himself in his chair so he could get a better look at his
"No--it doesn't sound like it, but it may be profound wisdom all the
same, if you can only see it from Richard's point of view. Try it.
There's a heap of brains under his cranium."
Harry fell to tapping the arm of his chair. Queer reasoning this of Mr.
Horn's, he said to himself. He had always thought that he and his father
were on the tip-top of any kind of tide, flood or ebb--and as for Kate,
she was the white gull that skimmed its crest!
Again Harry dropped into deep thought, shifting his legs now and then in
his restless, impatient way. If there was any comfort to be gotten out
of this new doctrine he wanted to probe it to the bottom.
"And what does he say of Mr. Poe? Does he think he's a drunken lunatic,
like some of the men at the club?"
"No, he thinks he is one of the greatest literary geniuses the country
has yet produced. He has said so for years--ever since he began to
write. Willis first became acquainted with Mr. Poe through a letter
Richard gave him, and now that the papers are full of him, and everybody
is talking about him, these backbiters like Bowdoin want to get into
line and say they always thought so. But Richard has never wavered. Of
course Poe loses his balance and topples backward once in a while--but
he's getting over it. That is his mistake and it is unfortunate, but it
isn't a crime. I can forgive him anything he does so he keeps to his
ideals. If he had had a better bringing up and knew the difference
between good rain-water Madeira and bad pump water and worse whiskey he
would keep as straight as a church deacon. Too bad he doesn't."
"Well," Harry answered at last, rising from his chair and brushing the
ashes of his pipe from his clothes--"I don't know anything about Mr.
Horn's tides, but he's right about Mr. Poe--that is, I hope he is. We've
both, got a 'Lost Lenore,'" and his voice quivered. All Harry's roads
ended at Kate's door.
And so with these and other talks, heart-burnings, outings, sports, and
long tramps in the country, the dogs scampering ahead, the summer days
Such were the soft, balmy conditions in and around the Temple
Mansion--conditions bringing only peace and comfort--(heart-aches were
kept in check)--when one August morning there came so decided a change
of weather that everybody began at once to get in out of the wet. The
storm had been brewing for some days up Moorlands way, where all Harry's
storms started, but up to the present moment there had been no
indications in and about Kennedy Square of its near approach, or even of
It was quite early in the day when the big drops began to patter down on
Todd's highly polished knocker. Breakfast had been served and the mail
but half opened--containing among other missives a letter from Poe
acknowledging one from St. George, in which he wrote that he might soon
be in Kennedy Square on his way to Richmond--a piece of news which
greatly delighted Harry--and another from Tom Coston, inviting them both
to Wesley for the fall shooting, with a postscript to the effect that
Willits was "still at the Red Sulphur with the Seymours"--(a piece of
news which greatly depressed him)--when Todd answered a thunderous
rat-a-tat and immediately thereafter recrossed the hall and opened the
dining-room door just wide enough to thrust in first his scared
face--then his head--shoulder--arm--and last his hand, on the palm of
which lay a small, greasy card bearing the inscription:
John Gadgem, Agent.
The darky, evidently, was not in a normal condition, for after a
moment's nervous hesitation, his eyes over his shoulder as if fearing he
was being followed, he squeezed in the rest of his body, closed the door
softly behind him, and said in a hoarse whisper to the room at large:
"Dat's de same man been here three times yisterday. He asked fust fer
Marse Harry, an' when I done tol' him he warn't home--you was 'sleep
upstairs, Marse Harry, but I warn't gwineter 'sturb ye--he say he come
back dis mawnin'."
"Well, but what does he want?" asked Harry, dropping a lump of sugar in
his cup. He had been accumstomed to be annoyed by agents of all kinds
who wanted to sell him one thing or another--and so he never allowed any
one to get at him unless his business was stated beforehand. He had
learned this from his father.
"I dun'no, sah."
"What does he look like, Todd?" cried St. George, breaking the seal of
"Wall, he ain't no gemman--he's jus' a pusson I reckon. I done tol' him
you warn't out o' bed yit, but he said he'd wait. I got him shet
outside, but I can't fool him no mo'. What'll I do now?"
"Well, what do you think he wants, then?" Harry burst out impatiently.
"Well," said Todd--"ef I was to tell ye God's truf', I reckon he wants
money. He says he's been to de big house--way out to de colonel's, and
dey th'owed him out--and now he's gwineter sit down yere till somebody
listens to him. It won't do to fool wid him, Marse Harry--I see dat de
fus' time he come. He's a he-one--and he's got horns on him for sho'.
What'll I do?"
Both Harry and St. George roared.
"Why bring him in, of course--a 'pusson' with horns on him will be worth
A shabby, wizened-faced man; bent-in-the-back, gimlet-eyed, wearing a
musty brown coat, soiled black stock, unspeakable linen, and skin-tight
trousers held to his rusty shoes by wide straps--showing not only the
knuckles of his knees but the streaked thinness of his upper
shanks--(Cruikshank could have drawn him to the life)--sidled into the
room, mopping his head with a red cotton handkerchief which he took from
"My name is GADgem, gentleman--Mr. John GADgem of GADgem & Combes.
"I am looking for Mr. Harry Rutter, whom I am informed--I would not say
POSitively--but I am inFORMED is stopping with you, Mr. Temple. You
forget me, Mr. Temple, but I do not forget you, sir. That little
foreclosure matter of Bucks vs. Temple--you remember when--"
"Sit down," said St. George curtly, laying down his knife and fork.
"Todd, hand Mr. Gadgem a chair."
The gimlet-eyed man--and it was very active--waved his hand
"No, I don't think that is necessary. I can stand. I preFER to stand. I
am acCUStomed to stand--I have been standing outside this gentleman's
father's door now, off and on, for some weeks, and--"
"Will you tell me what you want?" interrupted Harry, curtly. References
to Moorlands invariably roused his ire.
"I am coming to that, sir, slowly, but surely. Now that I have found
somebody that will listen to me--that is, if you are Mr. Harry
Rutter--" The deferential air with which he said this was admirable.
"Oh, yes--I'm the man," answered Harry in a resigned voice.
"Yes, sir--so I supposed. And now I look at you, sir"--here the gimlet
was in full twist--"I would make an affidavit to that effect before any
notary." He began loosening his coat with his skinny fingers, fumbling
in his inside pocket, thrusting deep his hand, as if searching for an
elusive insect in the vicinity of his arm-pit, his talk continuing:
"Yes, sir, before any notary, you are so exactly like your father. Not
that I've seen your father, sir, VERY MANY TIMES"--the elusive had
evidently escaped, for his hand went deeper. "I've only seen him
once--ONCE--and it was enough. It was not a pleasant visit, sir--in
fact, it was a most UNpleasant visit. I came very near having cause for
action--for assault, really. A very polite colored man was all that
prevented it, and--Ah--here it is!" He had the minute pest now. "Permit
me to separate the list from the exhibits."
At this Gadgem's hand, clutching a bundle of papers, came out with a
jerk--so much of a jerk that St. George, who was about to end the comedy
by ordering the man from the room, stopped short in his protest, his
curiosity getting the better of him to know what the fellow had found.
"There, sir." Here he drew a long slip from the package, held it between
his thumb and forefinger, and was about to continue, when St. George
burst out with:
"Look here, Gadgem--if you have any business with Mr. Rutter you will
please state it at once. We have hardly finished breakfast."
"I beg, sir, that you will not lose your temper. It is unBUSinesslike to
lose one's temper. Gadgem & Combes, sir, NEVER lose their temper. They
are men of peace, sir--ALways men of peace. Mr. Combes sometimes resorts
to extreme measures, but NEVER Mr. Gadgem. _I_ am Mr. Gadgem, sir," and
he tapped his soiled shirt-front with his soiled finger-nail. "PEACE is
my watchword, that is why this matter has been placed in my hands.
Permit me, sir, to ask you to cast your eye over this."
Harry, who was getting interested, scanned the long slip and handed it
to St. George, who studied it for a moment and returned it to Harry.
"You will note, I beg of you, sir, the first item." There was a tone of
triumph now in Gadgem's voice. "One saddle horse sixteen hands high,
bought of Hampson & Co. on the"--then he craned his neck so as to see
the list over Harry's shoulder--"yes--on the SECOND of LAST September.
Rather overdue, is it not, sir, if I may be permitted to remark?" This
came with a lift of the eyebrows, as if Harry's oversight had been too
naughty for words.
"But what the devil have I got to do with this?" The boy was thoroughly
angry now. The lift of Gadgem's eyebrows did it.
"You rode the horse, sir." This came with a certain air of "Oh! I have
"Yes, and he broke his leg and had to be shot," burst out Harry in a
tone that showed how worthless had been the bargain.
"EXactly, sir. So your father told me, sir. You don't remember having
PAID Mr. Hampson for him beFORE he broke his leg, do you, sir?" He had
him pinned fast now--all he had to do was to watch his victim's
"Me? No, of course not!" Harry exploded.
"EXactly so, sir--so your father told me. FORcibly, sir--and as if he
was quite sure of it."
Again he looked over Harry's shoulder, following the list with his
skinny finger. At the same time he lowered his voice--became even
humble. "Ah, there it is--the English racing saddle and the pair of
blankets, and the--might I ask you, sir, whether you have among your
papers any receipt for--?"
"But I don't pay these bills--I never pay any bills." Harry's tone had
now reached a higher pitch.
"EXactly so, sir--just what your father said, sir, and with such
vehemence that I moved toward the door." Out went the finger again, the
insinuating voice keeping up. "And then the five hundred dollars from
Mr. Slater--you see, sir, we had all these accounts placed in our hands
with the expectation that your father would liquidate at one fell
swoop--these were Mr. Combes's very words, sir: 'ONE FELL SWOOP.'" This
came with an inward rake of his hand, his fingers grasping an imaginary
sickle, Harry's accumulated debts being so many weeds in his way.
"And didn't he? He always has," demanded the culprit.
"EXactly so, sir--exactly what your father said."
"That he had heretofore always paid them."
"Well, then, take them to him!" roared Harry, breaking loose again. "I
haven't got anything to do with them, and won't."
"Your father's PREcise words, sir," purred Gadgem. "And by the time he
had uttered them, sir, I was out of the room. It was here, sir, that the
very polite colored man, Alec by name, so I am informed, and of whom I
made mention a few moments ago, became of inVALuable assistance--of very
GREAT assistance, sir."
"You mean to tell me that you have seen my father--handed him these
bills, and that he has refused to pay them?" Harry roared on.
"I DO, sir." Gadgem had straightened his withered body now and was
boring into Harry's eyes with all his might.
"Will you tell me just what he said?" The boy was still roaring, but the
indignant tone was missing.
"He said--you will not be offended, sir--you mean, of course, sir, that
you would like me to state exACTly what your father said, proceeding as
if I was under oath." It is indescribable how soft and mellifluous his
voice had now become.
"He said, sir, that he'd be DAMNED if he'd pay another cent for a
hot-headed fool who had disgraced his family. He said, sir, that you
were of AGE--and were of age when you contracted these bills. He said,
sir, that he had already sent you these accounts two days after he had
ordered you from his house. And FInally, sir--I say, finally, sir,
because it appeared to me at the time to be conclusive--he said, sir,
that he would set the dogs on me if I ever crossed his lot again. HENCE,
sir, my appearing three times at your door yesterday. HENCE, sir, my
breaking in upon you at this unseemly hour in the morning. I am
particular myself, sir, about having my morning meal disturbed; cold
coffee is never agreeable, gentlemen--but in this case you must admit
that my intrusion is pardonable."
The boy understood now.
"Come to think of it I have a bundle of papers upstairs tied with a red
string which came with my boxes from Moorlands. I threw them in the
drawer without opening them." This last remark was addressed to St.
George, who had listened at first with a broad smile on his face, which
had deepened to one of intense seriousness as the interview continued,
and which had now changed to one of ill-concealed rage.
"Mr. Gadgem," gritted St. George between his teeth--he had risen from
the table during the colloquy and was standing with his back to the
mantel, the blood up to the roots of his hair.
"Lay the packages of bills with the memoranda on my desk, and I will
look them over during the day."
"But, Mr. Temple," and his lip curled contemptuously--he had had that
same trick played on him by dozens of men.
"Not another word, Mr. Gadgem. I said--I--would
look--them--over--during--the--day. You've had some dealings with me and
know exactly what kind of a man I am. When I want you I will send for
you. If I don't send for you, come here to-morrow morning at ten o'clock
and Mr. Rutter will give you his answer. Todd, show Mr. Gadgem out."
"But, Mr. Temple--you forGET that my duty is to--"
"I forget nothing. Todd, show Mr. Gadgem out."
With the closing of the door behind the agent, St. George turned to
Harry. His eyes were snapping fire and his big frame tense with anger.
This phase of the affair had not occurred to him--nothing in which money
formed an important part ever did occur to him.
"A cowardly piece of business, Harry, and on a par with everything he
has done since you left his house. Talbot must be crazy to act as he
does. He can't break you down in any other way, so he insults you before
his friends and now throws these in your face"--and he pointed to the
package of bills where Gadgem had laid it--"a most extraordinary
proceeding. Please hand me that list. Thank you. ... Now this third item
... this five hundred dollars--did you get that money?"
"Yes--and another hundred the next day, which isn't down," rejoined the
young man, running his eye over the list.
"Yes, of course--for Gilbert. He got into a card scrape at the tavern
and I helped him out. I told my father all about it and he said I had
done just right; that I must always help a friend out in a case like
that, and that he'd pay it. All he objected to was my borrowing it of a
tradesman instead of my coming to him." It was an age of borrowing and a
bootmaker was often better than a banker.
"Well--but why didn't you go to him?" He wanted to get at all the facts.
"There wasn't time. Gilbert had to have the money in an hour, and it was
the only place where I could get it."
"Of course there wasn't time--never is when the stakes are running like
that." St. George folded up the memorandum. He knew something of
Talbot's iron will, but he never supposed that he would lose his sense
of what was right and wrong in exercising it. Again he opened the
list--rather hurriedly this time, as if some new phase had struck
him--studied it for a moment, and then asked with an increased interest
in his tones:
"Did Gilbert give you back the money you loaned him?"
"Yes--certainly; about a month afterward." Here at least was an asset.
St. George's face lighted up. "And what did you do with it?"
"Took it to my father and he told me to use it; that he would settle
with Mr. Slater when he paid his account;--when, too, he would thank him
for helping me out."
"And when he didn't pay it back and these buzzards learned you had quit
your father's house they employed Gadgem to pick your bones."
"Yes--it seems so; but, Uncle George, it's due them!" exclaimed
Harry--"they ought to have their money. I would never have taken a
dollar--or bought a thing if I had not supposed my father would pay for
them." There was no question as to the boy's sense of justice--every
intonation showed it.
"Of course it's due--due by you, too--not your father; that's the worst
of it. And if he refuses to assume it--and he has--it is still to be
paid--every cent of it. The question is how the devil is it to be
paid--and paid quickly. I can't have you pointed out as a spendthrift
and a dodger. No, this has got to be settled at once."
He threw himself into a chair, his mind absorbed in the effort to find
some way out of the difficulty. The state of his own bank account
precluded all relief in that direction. To borrow a dollar from the
Patapsco on any note of hand he could offer was out of the question, the
money stringency having become still more acute. Yet help must be had,
and at once. Again he unfolded the slip and ran his eyes over the items,
his mind in deep thought, then he added in an anxious tone:
"Are you aware, Harry, that this list amounts to several thousand
"Yes--I saw it did. I had no idea it was so much. I never thought
anything about it in fact. My father always paid--paid for anything I
wanted." Neither did the young fellow ever concern himself about the
supply of water in the old well at Moorlands. His experience had been
altogether with the bucket and the gourd: all he had had to do was to
Again St. George ruminated. It had been many years since he had been so
disturbed about any matter involving money.
"And have you any money left, Harry?"
"Not much. What I have is in my drawer upstairs."
"Then I'll lend you the money." This came with a certain
spontaneity--quite as if he had said to a companion who had lost his
"But have you got it, Uncle George?" asked Harry in an anxious tone.
"No--not that I know of," he replied simply, but with no weakening of
his determination to see the boy through, no matter at what cost.
"Well--then--how will you lend it?" laughed Harry. Money crises had not
formed part of his troubles.
"Egad, my boy, I don't know!--but somehow."
He rang the bell and Todd put in his head. "Todd, go around
outside,--see if young Mr. Pawson is in his office below us, present my
compliments and say that it will give me great pleasure to call upon him
regarding a matter of business."
"--And, Todd--say also that if agreeable to him, I will be there in ten
Punctually at ten o'clock on the following morning the shrivelled body
and anxious face of the agent was ushered by Todd into St. George's
presence--Dandy close behind sniffing at his thin knees, convinced that
he was a suspicious person. This hour had been fixed by Temple in case
he was not sent for earlier, and as no messenger had so far reached the
bill collector he was naturally in doubt as to the nature of his
reception. He had the same hat in his hand and the same handkerchief--a
weekly, or probably a monthly comfort--its dingy red color defrauding
"I have waited, sir," Gadgem began in an unctuous tone, his eyes on the
dog, who had now resumed his place on the hearth rug--"waited
IMpatiently, relying upon the word and honor of--"
"There--that will do, Gadgem," laughed St. George good-naturedly.
Somehow he seemed more than usually happy this morning--bubbling over,
indeed, ever since Todd had brought him a message from the young lawyer
in the basement but half an hour before. "Keep that sort of talk for
those who like it. No, Todd, you needn't bring Mr. Gadgem a chair, for
he won't be here long enough to enjoy it. Now listen," and he took the
memorandum from his pocket. "These bills are correct. Mr. Rutter has had
the money and the goods. Take this list which I have signed to my
attorney in the office underneath and be prepared to give a receipt in
full for each account at twelve o'clock to-morrow. I have arranged to
have them paid in full. Good-morning."
Gadgem stared. He did not believe a word about finding the money
downstairs. He was accustomed to being put off that way and had already
formulated his next tactical move. In fact he was about to name it with
some positiveness, recounting the sort of papers which would follow and
the celerity of their serving, when he suddenly became aware that St.
George's eyes were fixed upon him and instantly stopped breathing.
"I said good-morning, Mr. Gadgem," repeated St. George sententiously.
There was no mistaking his meaning.
"I heard you, sir," hesitated the collector--"_I_ heard you diSTINCTly,
but in cases of this kind there is--"
St. George swung back the door and stood waiting. No man living or dead
had ever doubted the word of St. George Wilmot Temple, not even by a
tone of the voice, and Gadgem's was certainly suggestive of a
well-defined and most offensive doubt. Todd moved up closer; Dandy rose
to his feet, thinking he might be of use. The little man looked from one
to the other. He might add an action for assault and battery to the
claim, but that would delay its collection.
"Then at TWELVE o'clock, to-morrow, Mr. Temple," he purred blandly.
"At twelve o'clock!" repeated St. George coldly, wondering which end of
the intruder he would grapple when he threw him through the front door
and down the front steps.
"I will be here on the stroke of the clock, sir--on the STROKE," and
Gadgem slunk out.
For some minutes St. George continued to walk up and down the room,
stooping once in a while to caress the setter; dry-washing his hands;
tapping his well-cut waistcoat with his shapely fingers, his thumbs in
the arm-holes; halting now and then to stretch himself to the full
height of his body. He had outwitted the colonel--taught him a
lesson--let him see that he was not the only "hound in the pack," and,
best of all, he had saved the boy from annoyance and possibly from
He was still striding up and down the room, when Harry, who had
overslept himself as usual, came down to breakfast. Had some friend of
his uncle found a gold mine in the back yard--or, better still, had Todd
just discovered a forgotten row of old "Brahmin Madeira" in some dark
corner of his cellar--St. George could not have been more buoyant.
"Glad you didn't get up any earlier, you good-for-nothing sleepy-head!"
he cried in welcoming, joyous tones. "You have just missed that
"What buzzard?" asked Harry, glancing over the letters on the mantel in
the forlorn hope of finding one from Kate.
"Why, Gadgem--and that is the last you will ever see of him."
"Why?--has father paid him?" he asked in a listless way, squeezing
Dandy's nose thrust affectionately into his hand--his mind still on
Kate. Now that Willits was with her, as every one said, she would never
write him again. He was a fool to expect it, he thought, and he sighed
"Of course he hasn't paid him--but I have. That is, a friend of mine
"You have!" cried Harry with a start. He was interested now--not for
himself, but for St. George: no penny of his uncle's should ever go to
pay his debts. "Where did the money come from?"
"Never you mind where the money came from. You found it for Gilbert--did
he ask you where you got it? Why should you ask me?"
"Well, I won't; but you are mighty good to me, Uncle George, and I am
very grateful to you." The relief was not overwhelming, for the burden
of the debt had not been heavy. It was only the sting of his father's
refusal that had hurt. He had always believed that the financial tangle
would be straightened out somehow.
"No!--damn it!--you are not grateful. You sha'n't be grateful!" cried
St. George with a boyish laugh, seating himself that he might fill his
pipe the better from a saucer of tobacco on the table. "If you were
grateful it would spoil it all. What you can do, however, is to thank
your lucky stars that that greasy red pocket-handkerchief will never be
aired in your presence again. And there's another thing you can be
thankful for now that you are in a thankful mood, and that is that Mr.
Poe will be at Guy's to-morrow, and wants to see me." He had finished
filling the pipe bowl, and had struck a match.
The boy's eyes danced. Gadgem, his father, his debts, everything--was
"Oh, I'm so glad! How do you know?"
"Here's a letter from him." (Puff-puff.)
"And can I see him?"
"Of course you can see him! We will have him to dinner, my boy! Here
comes Todd with your coffee. Take my seat so I can talk to you while I
Although St. George dispensed his hospitality without form or pretence,
never referring to his intended functions except in a casual way, the
news of so unusual a dinner to so notorious a man as Edgar Allan Poe
could not long be kept quiet.
While a few habitues occupying the arm-chairs on the sidewalk of the
club were disappointed at not being invited,--although they knew that
ten guests had always been St. George's limit,--others expressed their
disapproval of the entire performance with more than a shrug of the
shoulders. Captain Warfleld was most outspoken. "Temple," he said, "like
his father, is a law unto himself, and always entertains the queerest
kind of people; and if he wants to do honor to a man of that stamp, why
that, of course, is his business, not mine." At which old Tom Purviance
had blurted out--"And a shiftless vagabond too, Warfield, if what I hear
is true. Fine subject for St. George to waste his Madeira on!" Purviance
had never read a dozen lines of anybody's poetry in his life, and looked
upon all literary men as no better than play actors.
It was then that Richard Horn, his eyes flashing, had retorted:
"If I did not know how kind-hearted you were, Purviance, and how
thoughtless you can sometimes be in your criticisms, I might ask you to
apologize to both Mr. Poe and myself. Would it surprise you to know that
there is no more truth in what you say than there is in the reports of
that gentleman's habitual drunkenness? It was but a year ago that I met
him at his cousin's house and I shall never forget him. Would it also
surprise you to learn that he has the appearance of a man of very great
distinction?--that he was faultlessly attired in a full suit of black
and had the finest pair of eyes in his head I have ever looked into? Mr.
Poe is not of your world, or of mine--he is above it. There is too much
of this sort of ill-considered judgment abroad in the land. No--my dear
Purviance--I don't want to be rude and I am sure you will not think I am
personal. I am only trying to be just to one of the master spirits of
our time so that I won't be humiliated when his real worth becomes a
The women took a different view.
"I can't understand what Mr. Temple is thinking of," said the wife of
the archdeacon to Mrs. Cheston. "This Mr. Poe is something
dreadful--never sober, I hear. Mr. Temple is invariably polite to
everybody, but when he goes out of his way to do honor to a man like
this he only makes it harder for those of us who are trying to help our
sons and brothers--" to which Mrs. Cheston had replied with a twinkle in
her mouse eyes and a toss of her gray head:--"So was Byron, my dear
woman--a very dreadful and most disreputable person, but I can't spare
him from my Library, nor should you."
None of these criticisms would have affected St. George had he heard
them, and we may be sure no one dared tell him. He was too busy, in
fact--and so was Harry, helping him for that matter--setting his house
in order for the coming function.
That the table itself might be made the more worthy of the great man,
orders were given that the big silver loving-cup--the one presented to
his father by no less a person than the Marquis de Castellux himself--
should be brought out to be filled later on with Cloth of Gold roses so
placed that their rich color and fragrance would reach both the eyes and
the nostrils of his guests, while the rest of the family silver,
brightened to a mirror finish by Todd, was either sent down to Aunt
Jemima to be ready for the special dishes for which the house was
famous, or disposed on the side-board and serving-table for instant use
when required. Easy-chairs were next brought from upstairs--tobacco and
pipes, with wax candles, were arranged on teak-wood trays, and an extra
dozen or so of bubble-blown glasses banked on a convenient shelf. The
banquet room too, for it was late summer, was kept as cool as the season
permitted, the green shutters being closed, thus barring out the heat of
early September--and the same precaution was taken in the dressing-room,
which was to serve as a receptacle for hats and canes.
And Todd as usual was his able assistant. All the darky's training came
into play when his master was giving a dinner: what Madeira to decant,
and what to leave in its jacket of dust, with its waistcoat of a label
unlaundered for half a century; the temperature of the claret; the exact
angle at which the Burgundy must be tilted and when it was to be
opened--and how--especially the "how"--the disturbing of a single grain
of sediment being a capital offence; the final brandies, particularly
that old Peach Brandy hidden in Tom Coston's father's cellar during the
war of 1812, and sent to that gentleman as an especial "mark of my
appreciation to my dear friend and kinsman, St. George Wilmot Temple,"
etc., etc.--all this Todd knew to his finger ends.
For with St. George to dine meant something more than the mere
satisfying of one's hunger. To dine meant to get your elbows next to
your dearest friend--half a dozen or more of your dearest friends, if
possible--to look into their faces, hear them talk, regale them with
the best your purse afforded, and last and best of all to open for them
your rarest wines--wines bred in the open, amid tender, clustering
leaves; wines mellowed by a thousand sunbeams; nurtured, cared for, and
put tenderly to sleep, only to awake years thereafter to warm the hearts
and cheer the souls of those who honored them with their respect and
never degraded them with their debauchery.
As for the dishes themselves--here St. George with Jemima's help was
pastmaster: dishes sizzling hot; dishes warm, and dishes stone cold. And
their several arrivals and departures, accompanied by their several
staffs: the soup as an advance guard--of gumbo or clams--or both if you
chose; then a sheepshead caught off Cobb's Island the day before, just
arrived by the day boat, with potatoes that would melt in your mouth--in
gray jackets these; then soft-shell crabs--big, crisp fellows, with
fixed bayonets of legs, and orderlies of cucumber--the first served on a
huge silver platter with the coat-of-arms of the Temples cut in the
centre of the rim and the last on an old English cut-glass dish. Then
the woodcock and green peas--and green corn--their teeth in a broad
grin; then an olio of pineapple, and a wonderful Cheshire cheese, just
arrived in a late invoice--and marvellous crackers--and coffee--and
fruit (cantaloupes and peaches that would make your mouth water), then
nuts, and last a few crusts of dry bread! And here everything came to a
halt and all the troops were sent back to the barracks--(Aunt Jemima
will do for the barracks).
With this there was to follow a change of base--a most important
change. Everything eatable and drinkable and all the glasses and dishes
were to be lifted from the table--one half at a time--the cloth rolled
back and whisked away and the polished mahogany laid bare; the silver
coasters posted in advantageous positions, and in was to rattle the
light artillery:--Black Warrior of 1810--Port of 1815--a Royal Brown
Sherry that nobody knew anything about, and had no desire to, so
fragrant was it. Last of all the notched finger-bowls in which to cool
the delicate, pipe-stem glasses; and then, and only then, did the real
All this Todd had done dozens and dozens of times before, and all this
(with Malachi's assistance--Richard Horn consenting--for there was
nothing too good for the great poet) would Todd do again on this
As to the guests, this particular feast being given to the most
distinguished literary genius the country had yet produced,--certainly
the most talked of--those who were bidden were, of course, selected with
more than usual care: Mr. John P. Kennedy, the widely known author and
statesman, and Mr. John H. B. Latrobe, equally noteworthy as counsellor,
mathematician, and patron of the fine arts, both of whom had been Poe's
friends for years, and who had first recognized his genius; Richard
Horn, who never lost an opportunity to praise him, together with Judge
Pancoast, Major Clayton, the richest aristocrat about Kennedy Square and
whose cellar was famous the county over--and last, the Honorable Prim.
Not because old Seymour possessed any especial fitness one way or the
other for a dinner of this kind, but because his presence would afford
an underground communication by which Kate could learn how fine and
splendid Harry was--(sly old diplomat St. George!)--and how well he had
appeared at a table about which were seated the best Kennedy Square
"I'll put you right opposite Mr. Poe, Harry--so you can study him at
your leisure," St. George had said when discussing the placing of the
guests, "and be sure you look at his hands, they are just like a girl's,
they are so soft and white. And his eyes--you will never forget them.
And there is an air about him too--an air of--well, a sort of haughty
distraction--something I can't quite explain--as if he had a contempt
for small things--things that you and I, and your father and all of us
about here, believe in. Blood or no blood, he's a gentleman, even if he
does come of very plain people;--and they were players I hear. It seems
natural, when you think it over, that Latrobe and Kennedy and Horn
should be men of genius, because their blood entitles them to it, but
how a man raised as Mr. Poe has been should--well--all I can say is that
he upsets all our theories."
"But I think you are wrong, Uncle George, about his birth. I've been
looking him up and his grandfather was a general in the Revolution."
"Well, I'm glad of it--and I hope he was a very good general, and very
much of a gentleman--but there is no question of his descendant being a
wonder. But that is neither here nor there--you'll be right opposite and
can study him in your own way."
Mr. Kennedy arrived first. Although his family name is the same as that
which dignifies the scene of these chronicles, none of his ancestors, so
far as I know, were responsible for its title. Nor did his own domicile
front on its confines. In fact, at this period of his varied and
distinguished life, he was seldom seen in Kennedy Square, his duties at
Washington occupying all his time, and it was by the merest chance that
he could be present.
"Ah, St. George!" he exclaimed, as he handed his hat to Todd and grasped
his host's hand. "So very good of you to let me come. How cool and
delicious it is in here--and the superb roses--Ah yes!--the old
Castellux cup. I remember it perfectly; your father once gave me a sip
from its rim when I was a young fellow. And now tell me--how is our
genius? What a master-stroke is his last--the whole country. is ringing
with it. How did you get hold of him?"
"Very easily. He wrote me he was passing through on his way to Richmond,
and you naturally popped into my head as the proper man to sit next
him," replied St. George in his hearty manner.
"And you were on top of him, I suppose, before he got out of bed. Safer,
sometimes," and he smiled significantly.
"Yes, found him at Guy's. Sit here, Kennedy, where the air is cooler."
"And quite himself?" continued the author, settling himself in a chair
that St. George had just drawn out for him.
"Perhaps a little thinner, and a little worn. It was only when I told
him you were coming, that I got a smile out of him. He never forgets you
and he never should."
Again Todd answered the knocker and Major Clayton, Richard Horn, and Mr.
Latrobe joined the group. The major, who was rather stout, apologized
for his light seersucker coat, due, as he explained, to the heat,
although his other garments were above criticism. Richard, however,
looked as if he had just stepped out of an old portrait in his dull-blue
coat and white silk scarf, St. George's eyes lighting up as he took in
the combination--nothing pleased St. George so much as a well-dressed
man, and Richard never disappointed him, while Latrobe, both in his
dress and dignified bearing, easily held first place as the most
distinguished looking man in the room.
The Honorable Prim now stalked in and shook hands gravely and with much
dignity, especially with Mr. Kennedy, whose career as a statesman he had
always greatly admired. St. George often said, in speaking of this
manner of the Scotchman's, that Prim's precise pomposity was entirely
due to the fact that he had swallowed himself and couldn't digest the
meal; that if he would once in a while let out a big, hearty laugh it
might split his skin wide enough for him to get a natural breath.
St. George kept his eyes on Harry when the boy stepped forward and shook
Prim by the hand, but he had no need for anxiety. The face of the young
prince lighted up and his manner was as gracious as if nothing had ever
occurred to mar the harmony between the Seymour clan and himself.
Everybody had seated themselves now--Malachi having passed around a
course of palm-leaf fans--Clayton, Latrobe, and Horn at one open window
overlooking the tired trees--it was in the dog days--Seymour and the
judge at the other, while St. George took a position so that he could
catch the first glimpse of the famous poet as he crossed the Square--(it
was still light), the dinner hour having arrived and Todd already
Once more the talk dwelt on the guest of honor--Mr. Kennedy, who, of
all men of his time, could best appreciate Poe's genius, and who, with
Mr. Latrobe, had kept it alive, telling for the hundredth time the old
story of his first meeting with the poet, turning now and then to
Latrobe for confirmation.
"Oh, some ten or more years ago, wasn't it, Latrobe? We happened to be
on the committee for awarding a prize story, and Poe had sent in his
'Manuscript in a Bottle' among others. It would have broken your hearts,
gentlemen, to have seen him. His black coat was buttoned up close to his
chin--seedy, badly worn--he himself shabby and down at the heels, but
erect and extremely courteous--a most pitiable object. My servant wasn't
going to let him in at first, he looked so much the vagrant."
"And you know, of course, Kennedy, that he had no shirt on under that
coat, don't you?" rejoined Latrobe, rising from his seat as he spoke and
joining St. George at the window.
"Do you think so?" echoed Mr. Kennedy.
"I am positive of it. He came to see me next day and wanted me to let
him know whether he had been successful. He said if the committee only
knew how much the prize would mean to him they would stretch a point in
his favor. I am quite sure I told you about it at the time, St. George,"
and he laid his hand on his host's shoulder.
"There was no need of stretching it, Latrobe," remarked Richard Horn in
his low, incisive voice, his eyes on Kennedy's face, although he was
speaking to the counsellor. "You and Kennedy did the world a great
service at the right moment. Many a man of brains--one with something
new to say--has gone to the wall and left his fellow men that much
poorer because no one helped him into the Pool of Healing at the right
moment." (Dear Richard!--he was already beginning to understand
something of this in his own experience.)
Todd's entrance interrupted the talk for a moment. His face was screwed
up into knots, both eyes lost in the deepest crease. "Fo' Gawd, Marse
George," he whispered in his master's ear--"dem woodcock'll be sp'iled
if dat gemman don't come!"
St. George shook his head: "We will wait a few minutes more, Todd. Tell
Aunt Jemima what I say."
Clayton, who despite the thinness of his seersucker coat, had kept his
palm-leaf fan busy since he had taken his seat, and who had waited until
his host's ear was again free, now broke in cheerily:
"Same old story of course, St. George. Another genius gone astray. Bad
business, this bee of literature, once it gets to buzzing." Then with a
quizzical glance at the author: "Kennedy is a lamentable example of what
it has done for him. He started out as a soldier, dropped into law, and
now is trying to break into Congress again--and all the time writes--
writes--writes. It has spoiled everything he has tried to do in
life--and it will spoil everything he touches from this on--and now
comes along this man Poe, who--"
"--No, he doesn't come along," chimed in Pancoast, who so far had kept
silence, his palm-leaf fan having done all the talking. "I wish he
"You are right, judge," chuckled Clayton, "and that is just my point.
Here I say, comes along this man Poe and spoils my dinner. Something, I
tell you, has got to be done or I shall collapse. By the way,
Kennedy--didn't you send Poe a suit of clothes once in which to come to
The distinguished statesman, who had been smiling at the major's
good-natured badinage, made no reply: that was a matter between the poet
"And didn't he keep everybody waiting?" persisted Clayton, "until your
man found him and brought him back in your own outfit--only the shirt
was four sizes too big for his bean-pole of a body. Am I right?" he
"He has often dined with me, Clayton," replied Kennedy in his most
courteous and kindly tone, ignoring the question as well as all allusion
to his charity--"and never in all my experience have I ever met a more
dazzling conversationalist. Start him on one of his weird tales and let
him see that you are interested and in sympathy with him, and you will
never forget it. He gave us parts of an unfinished story one night at my
house, so tremendous in its power that every one was frozen stiff in his
Again Clayton cut in, this time to St. George. He was getting horribly
hungry, as were the others. It was now twenty minutes past the dinner
hour and there were still no signs of Poe, nor had any word come from
him. "For mercy's sake, St. George, try the suit-of-clothes method--any
suit of clothes--here--he can have mine! I'll be twice as comfortable
"He couldn't get into them," returned St. George with a smile--"nor
could he into mine, although he is half our weight; and as for our
hats--they wouldn't get further down on his head than the top of his
"But I insist on the experiment," bubbled Clayton good-naturedly. "Here
we are, hungry as wolves and everything being burned up. Try the
suit-of-clothes trick--Kennedy did it--and it won't take your Todd ten
minutes to go to Guy's and bring him back inside of them."
"Those days are over for Poe," Kennedy remarked with a slight frown. The
major's continued allusions to a brother writer's poverty, though pure
badinage, had begun to jar on the author.
For the second time Todd's face was thrust in at the door. It now looked
like a martyr's being slowly roasted at the stake.
"Yes, Todd--serve dinner!" called St. George in a tone that showed how
great was his disappointment. "We won't wait any longer, gentlemen.
Geniuses must be allowed some leeway. Something has detained our guest."
"He's got an idea in his head and has stopped in somewhere to write it
down," continued Clayton in his habitual good-natured tone: it was the
overdone woodcock--(he had heard Todd's warning)--that still filled his
"I could forgive him for that," exclaimed the judge--"some of his best
work, I hear, has been done on the spur of the moment--and you should
forgive him too, Clayton--unbeliever and iconoclast as you are--and you
WOULD forgive him if you knew as much about new poetry as you do about
Clayton's stout body shook with laughter. "My dear Pancoast," he cried,
"you do not know what you are talking about. No man living or dead
should be forgiven who keeps a woodcock on the spit five minutes over
time. Forgive him! Why, my dear sir, your poet ought to be drawn and
quartered, and what is left of him boiled in oil. Where shall I sit, St.
"Alongside of Latrobe. Kennedy, I shall put you next to Poe's vacant
chair--he knows and loves you best. Seymour, will you and Richard take
your places alongside of Pancoast, and Harry, will you please sit
opposite Mr. Kennedy?"
And so the dinner began.
Whether it was St. George's cheery announcement: "Well, gentlemen, I am
sorry, but we still have each other, and so we will remember our guest
in our hearts even if we cannot have his charming person," or whether it
was that the absence of Poe made little difference when a dinner with
St. George was in question--certain it is that before many moments the
delinquent poet was for the most part forgotten.
As the several dishes passed in review, Malachi in charge of the small
arms--plates, knives, and forks--and Todd following with the heavier
guns--silver platters and the like--the talk branched out to more
diversified topics: the new omnibuses which had been allowed to run in
the town; the serious financial situation, few people having recovered
from the effects of the last great panic; the expected reception to Mr.
Polk; the new Historical Society, of which every one present was a
member except St. George and Harry; the successful experiments which the
New York painter, a Mr. Morse, was making in what he was pleased to call
Magnetic Telegraphy, and the absurdity of his claim that his invention
would soon come into general use--every one commenting unfavorably
except Richard Horn:--all these shuttlecocks being tossed into mid-air
for each battledore to crack, and all these, with infinite tact the
better to hide his own and his companions' disappointment over the loss
of his honored guest--did St. George keep on the move.
With the shifting of the cloth and the placing of the coasters--the
nuts, crusts of bread, and finger-bowls being within easy reach--most of
this desultory talk ceased. Something more delicate, more human, more
captivating than sport, finance, or politics; more satisfying than all
the poets who ever lived, filled everybody's mind. Certain Rip Van
Winkles of bottles with tattered garments, dust-begrimed faces, and
cobwebs in their hair were lifted tenderly from the side-board and
awakened to consciousness (some of them hadn't opened their mouths for
twenty years, except to have them immediately stopped with a new cork),
and placed in the expectant coasters, Todd handling each one with the
reverence of a priest serving in a temple. Crusty, pot-bellied old
fellows, who hadn't uttered a civil word to anybody since they had been
shut up in their youth, now laughed themselves wide open. A squat,
lean-necked, jolly little jug without legs--labelled in
ink--"Crab-apple, 1807," spread himself over as much of the mahogany as
he could cover, and admired his fat shape upside down in its polish.
Diamond-cut decanters--regular swells these--with silver chains and
medals on their chests--went swaggering round, boasting of their
ancestors; saying "Your good health" every time any one invited them to
have a drop--or lose one--while a modest little demijohn--or rather a
semi-demi-little-john--all in his wicker-basket clothes, with a card
sewed on his jacket--like a lost boy (Peggy Coston of Wesley did the
sewing) bearing its name and address--"Old Peach, 1796, Wesley, Eastern
Shore," was placed on St. George's right within reach of his hand. "It
reminds me of the dear woman herself, gentleman, in her homely outside
and her warm, loving heart underneath, and I wouldn't change any part of
it for the world."
"What Madeira is this, St. George?" It was the judge who was
speaking--he had not yet raised the thin glass to his lips; the old
wine-taster was too absorbed in its rich amber color and in the delicate
aroma, which was now reaching his nostrils. Indeed a new--several new
fragrances, were by this time permeating the room.
"It is the same, judge, that I always give you."
"Not your father's Black Warrior?"
"Yes, the 1810. Don't you recognize it? Not corked, is it?"
"Corked, my dear man! It's a posy of roses. But I thought that was all
"No, there are a few bottles still in my cellar--some-- How many are
there, Todd, of the Black Warrior?"
"Dat's de las' 'cept two, Marse George."
"Dying in a good cause, judge--I'll send them to you to-morrow."
"You'll do nothing of the kind, you spendthrift. Give them to Kennedy or
"No, give them to nobody!" laughed Kennedy. "Keep them where they are
and don't let anybody draw either cork until you invite me to dinner
"Only two bottles left," cried Latrobe in consternation! "Well, what the
devil are we going to do when they are gone?--what's anybody going to
do?" The "we" was the key to the situation. The good Madeira of Kennedy
Square was for those who honored it, and in that sense--and that sense
only--was common property.
"Don't be frightened, Latrobe," laughed St. George--"I've got a lot of
the Blackburn Reserve of 1812 left. Todd, serve that last bottle I
brought up this morning--I put it in that low decanter next to-- Ah,
Malachi--you are nearest. Pass that to Mr. Latrobe, Malachi-- Yes,
that's the one. Now tell me how you like it. It is a little pricked, I
think, and may be slightly bruised in the handling. I spent half an hour
picking out the cork this morning--but there is no question of its
"Yes," rejoined Latrobe, moistening his lips with the topaz-colored
liquid--"it is a little bruised. I wouldn't have served it--better lay
it aside for a month or two in the decanter. Are all your corks down to
that, St. George?"
"All the 1810 and '12--dry as powder some of them. I've got one over on
the sideboard that I'm afraid to tackle"--here he turned to Clayton:
"Major, you are the only man I know who can pick out a cork properly.
Yes, Todd--the bottle at the end, next to that Burgundy--carefully now.
Don't shake it, and--"
"Well--but why don't YOU draw the cork yourself, St. George?"
interrupted the major, his eyes on Todd, who was searching for the
rarity among the others flanking the sideboard.
"I dare not--that is, I'm afraid to try. You are the man for a cork like
that--and Todd!--hand Major Clayton the corkscrew and one of those
The Honorable Prim bent closer. "What is it, St. George, some old Port?"
he asked in a perfunctory way. Rare old wines never interested him.
"They are an affectation," he used to say.
"No, Seymour--it's really a bottle of the Peter Remsen 1817 Madeira."
The bottle was passed, every eye watching it with the greatest interest.
"No, never mind the corkscrew, Todd,--I'll pick it out," remarked the
major, examining the hazardous cork with the care of a watchmaker
handling a broken-down chronometer. "You're right, St. George--it's too
far gone. Don't watch me, Seymour, or I'll get nervous. You'll hoodoo
it--you Scotchmen are the devil when it comes to anything fit to drink,"
and he winked at Prim.
"How much is there left of it, St. George?" asked Latrobe, watching the
major manipulate the nutpick.
"Not a drop outside that bottle."
"Let us pray--for the cork," sighed Latrobe. "Easy--E-A-SY, major--think
of your responsibility, man!"
It was out now, the major dusting the opening with one end of his
napkin--his face wreathed in smiles when his nostrils caught the first
whiff of its aroma.
"By Jupiter!--gentlemen!--When I'm being snuffed out I'll at least go
like a gentleman if I have a drop of this on my lips. It's a bunch of
roses--a veritable nosegay. Heavens!--what a bouquet! Some fresh
Malachi and Todd both stepped forward for the honor of serving it, but
the major waved them aside, and rising to his feet began the round of
the table, filling each slender pipe-stem glass to the brim.
Then the talk, which had long since drifted away from general topics,
turned to the color and sparkle of some of the more famous wines
absorbed these many years by their distinguished votaries. This was
followed by the proper filtration and racking both of Ports and
Madeiras, and whether milk or egg were best for the purpose--Kennedy
recounting his experience of different vintages both here and abroad,
the others joining in, and all with the same intense interest that a
group of scientists or collectors would have evinced in discussing some
new discovery in chemistry or physics, or the coming to light of some
rare volume long since out of print--everybody, indeed, taking a hand in
the discussion except Latrobe, whose mouth was occupied in the slow
sipping of his favorite Madeira--tilting a few drops now and then on the
end of his tongue, his eyes devoutly closed that he might the better
relish its flavor and aroma.
It was all an object lesson to Harry, who had never been to a dinner of
older men--not even at his father's--and though at first he smiled at
what seemed to him a great fuss over nothing, he finally began to take a
broader view. Wine, then, was like food or music, or poetry--or
good-fellowship--something to be enjoyed in its place--and never out of
it. For all that, he had allowed no drop of anything to fall into his
own glass--a determination which Todd understood perfectly, but which
he as studiously chose to ignore--going through all the motions of
filling the glass so as not to cause Marse Harry any embarrassment. Even
the "1817" was turned down by the young man with a parrying gesture
which caught the alert eyes of the major.
"You are right, my boy," the bon vivant said sententiously. "It is a
wine for old men. But look after your stomach, you dog--or you may wake
up some fine morning and not be able to know good Madeira from bad. You
young bloods, with your vile concoctions of toddies, punches, and other
satanic brews, are fast going to the devil--your palates, I am speaking
of. If you ever saw the inside of a distillery you would never drink
another drop of whiskey. There's poison in every thimbleful. There's
sunshine in this, sir!" and he held the glass to his eyes until the
light of the candles flashed through it.
"But I've never seen the inside or outside of a distillery in my life,"
answered Harry with a laugh, a reply which did not in the least quench
the major's enthusiasms, who went on dilating, wine-glass in hand, on
the vulgarity of drinking STANDING UP--the habitual custom of whiskey
tipplers--in contrast with the refinement of sipping wines SITTING
DOWN--one being a vice and the other a virtue.
Richard, too, had been noticing Harry. He had overheard, as the dinner
progressed, a remark the boy had made to the guest next him, regarding
the peculiar rhythm of Poe's verse--Harry repeating the closing lines of
the poem with such keen appreciation of their meaning that Richard at
once joined in the talk, commending him for his insight and
discrimination. He had always supposed that Rutter's son, like all the
younger bloods of his time, had abandoned his books when he left college
and had affected horses and dogs instead. The discovery ended in his
scrutinizing Harry's face the closer, reading between the lines--his
father here, his mother there--until a quick knitting of the brows, and
a flash from out the deep-brown eyes, upset all his preconceived
opinions; he had expected grit and courage in the boy--there couldn't
help being that when one thought of his father--but where did the lad
get his imagination? Richard wondered--that which millions could not
purchase. "A most engaging young man in spite of his madcap life," he
said to himself--"I don't wonder St. George loves him."
When the bell in the old church struck the hour of ten, Harry again
turned to Richard and said with a sigh of disappointment:
"I'm afraid it's too late to expect him--don't you think so?"
"Yes, I fear so," rejoined Richard, who all through the dinner had never
ceased to bend his ear to every sound, hoping for the rumble of wheels
or the quick step of a man in the hall. "Something extraordinary must
have happened to him, or he may have been called suddenly to Richmond
and taken the steamboat." Then leaning toward his host he called across
the table: "Might I make a suggestion, St. George?"
St. George paused in his talk with Mr. Kennedy and Latrobe and raised
"I was just saying to young Rutter here, that perhaps Mr. Poe has been
called suddenly to Richmond and has sent you a note which has not
"Or he might be ill," suggested Harry in his anxiety to leave no
loophole through which the poet could escape.
"Or he might be ill," repeated Richard--"quite true. Now would you mind
if I sent Malachi to Guy's to find out?"
"No, Richard--but I'll send Todd. We can get along, I expect, with
Malachi until he gets back. Todd!"
"You go to Guy's and ask Mr. Lampson if Mr. Poe is still in the hotel.
If he is not there ask for any letter addressed to me and then come
back. If he is in, go up to his room and present my compliments, and say
we are waiting dinner for him."
Todd's face lengthened, but he missed no word of his master's
instructions. Apart from these his mind was occupied with the number of
minutes it would take him to run all the way to Guy's Hotel, mount the
steps, deliver his message, and race back again. Malachi, who was nearly
twice his age, and who had had twice his experience, might be all right
until he reached that old Burgundy, but "dere warn't nobody could handle
dem corks but Todd; Malachi'd bust 'em sho' and spile 'em 'fo' he could
"'Spose dere ain't no gemman and no letter, den what?" he asked as a
"Then come straight home."
"Yes, sah," and he backed regretfully from the room and closed the door
St. George turned to Horn again: "Very good idea, Richard--wonder I
hadn't thought of it before. I should probably had I not expected him
every minute. And he was so glad to come. He told me he had never
forgotten the dinner at Kennedy's some years ago, and when he heard you
would be here as well, his whole face lighted up. I was also greatly
struck with the improvement in his appearance, he seemed more a man of
the world than when I first knew him--carried himself better and was
more carefully dressed. This morning when I went in he--"
The door opened silently, and Todd, trembling all over, laid his hand on
his master's shoulder, cutting short his dissertation.
"Marse George, please sah, can I speak to you a minute?" The boy looked
as if he had just seen a ghost.
"Speak to me! Why haven't you taken my message, Todd?"
"Yes, sah--dat is--can't ye step in de hall a minute, Marse
"The hall!--what for?--is there anything the matter?"
St. George pushed back his chair and followed Todd from the room:
something had gone wrong--something demanding instant attention or Todd
wouldn't be scared out of his wits. Those nearest him, who had overheard
Todd's whispered words, halted in their talk in the hope of getting some
clew to the situation; others, further away, kept on, unconscious that
anything unusual had taken place.
Several minutes passed.
Again the door swung wide, and a man deathly pale, erect, faultlessly
dressed in a full suit of black, the coat buttoned close to his chin,
his cavernous eyes burning like coals of fire, entered on St. George's
arm and advanced toward the group.
Every guest was on his feet in an instant.
"We have him at last!" cried St. George in his cheeriest voice. "A
little late, but doubly welcome. Mr. Poe, gentlemen."
Kennedy was the first to extend his hand, Horn crowding close, the
others waiting their turn.
Poe straightened his body, focussed his eyes on Kennedy, shook his
extended hand gravely, but without the slightest sign of recognition,
and repeated the same cold greeting to each guest in the room. He spoke
no word--did not open his lips--only the mechanical movement of his
outstretched hand--a movement so formal that it stifled all exclamations
of praise on the part of the guests, or even of welcome. It was as if he
had grasped the hands of strangers beside an open grave.
Then the cold, horrible truth flashed upon them:
Edgar Allan Poe was dead drunk!
The silence that followed was appalling--an expectant silence like that
which precedes the explosion of a bomb. Kennedy, who had known him the
longest and best, and who knew that if his mind could once be set
working he would recover his tongue and wits, having seen him before in
a similar crisis, stepped nearer and laid both hands on Poe's shoulders.
Get Poe to talking and he would be himself again; let him once be
seated, and ten chances to one he would fall asleep at the table.
"No, don't sit down, Mr. Poe--not yet. Give us that great story of
yours--the one you told at my house that night--we have never forgotten
it. Gentlemen, all take your seats--I promise you one of the great
treats of your lives."
Poe stood for an instant undecided, the light of the candles illumining
his black hair, pallid face, and haggard features; fixed his eyes on
Todd and Malachi, as if trying to account for their presence, and stood
wavering, his deep, restless eyes gleaming like slumbering coals
flashing points of hot light.
Again Mr. Kennedy's voice rang out:
"Any one of your stories, Mr. Poe--we leave it to you."
Everybody was seated now, with eyes fixed on the poet. Harry, overcome
and still dazed, pressed close to Richard, who, bending forward, had put
his elbow on the table, his chin in his hand. Clayton wheeled up a big
chair and placed it back some little distance so that he could get a
better view of the man. Seymour, Latrobe, and the others canted their
seats to face the speaker squarely. All felt that Kennedy's tact had
saved the situation and restored the equilibrium. It was the poet now
who stood before them--the man of genius--the man whose name was known
the country through. That he was drunk was only part of the performance.
Booth had been drunk when he chased a super from the stage; Webster made
his best speeches when he was half-seas-over--was making them at that
very moment. It was so with many other men of genius the world over. If
they could hear one of Poe's poems--or, better still, one of his short
stories, like "The Black Cat" or the "Murders in the Rue Morgue"--it
would be like hearing Emerson read one of his Essays or Longfellow
recite his "Hyperion." This in itself would atone for everything.
Kennedy was right--it would be one of the rare treats of their lives.
Poe grasped the back of the chair reserved for him, stood swaying for an
instant, passed one hand nervously across his forehead, brushed back a
stray lock that had fallen over his eyebrow, loosened the top button of
his frock coat, revealing a fresh white scarf tied about his neck,
closed his eyes, and in a voice deep, sonorous, choked with tears one
moment, ringing clear the next--word by word--slowly--with infinite
tenderness and infinite dignity and with the solemnity of a condemned
man awaiting death--repeated the Lord's Prayer to the end.
Kennedy sat as if paralyzed. Richard Horn, who had lifted up his hands
in horror as the opening sentence reached his ears, lowered his head
upon his chest as he would in church. There was no blasphemy in this! It
was the wail of a lost soul pleading for mercy!
Harry, cowering in his chair, gazed at Poe in amazement. Then a throb of
such sympathy as he had never felt before shook him to his depths. Could
that transfigured man praying there, the undried tears still on his
lids, be the same who had entered on his uncle's arm but a few moments
Poe lifted his head, opened his eyes, walked in a tired, hopeless way
toward the mantel and sank into an easy-chair. There he sat with bowed
head, his face in his hands.
One by one the men rose to their feet and, with a nod or silent pressure
of St. George's palm, moved toward the door. When they spoke to each
other it was in whispers: to Todd, who brought their hats and canes; to
Harry, whom, unconsciously, they substituted for host; shaking his hand,
muttering some word of sympathy for St. George. No--they would find
their way, better not disturb his uncle, etc. They would see him in the
morning, etc., and thus the group passed out in a body and left the
Temple himself was profoundly moved. The utter helplessness of the man;
his abject and complete surrender to the demon which possessed him--all
this appalled him. He had seen many drunken men in his time--roysterers
and brawlers, most of them--but never one like Poe. The poet seemed to
have lost his identity--nothing of the man of the world was left--in
speech, thought, or movement.
When Harry re-entered, his uncle was sitting beside the poet, who had
not yet addressed him a word; nor had he again raised his head. Every
now and then the sound of an indrawn breath would escape Poe, as if hot
tears were choking him.
St. George waved his hand meaningly.
"Tell Todd I'll ring for him when I want him, Harry," he whispered, "and
now do you go to sleep." Then, pointing to the crouching man, "He must
stay in my bed here to-night; I won't leave him. What a pity! O God!
what a pity! Poor fellow--how sorry I am for him!"
Harry was even more affected. Terrified and awestruck, he mounted the
stairs to his room, locked his chamber door, and threw himself on his
bed, his mother's and Kate's pleadings sounding in his ears, his mind
filled with the picture of the poet standing erect with closed eyes, the
prayer his mother had taught him falling from his lips. This, then, was
what his mother and Kate meant--this--the greatest of all
calamities--the overthrow of a MAN.
For the hundredth time he turned his wandering search-light into his own
heart. The salient features of his own short career passed in review:
the fluttering of the torn card as it fell to the floor; the sharp crack
of Willits's pistol; the cold, harsh tones of his father's voice when he
ordered him from the house; Kate's dear eyes streaming with tears and
her uplifted hands--their repellent palms turned toward him as she
sobbed--"Go away--my heart is broken!" And then the refrain of the poem
which of late had haunted him night and day:
"Disaster following fast and following faster, Till his song one burden
and then the full, rich tones of Poe's voice pleading with his Maker:
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
"Yes:--Disaster had followed fast and faster. But why had it followed
him? What had he done to bring all this misery upon himself? How could
he have acted differently? Wherein had he broken any law he had been
taught to uphold, and if he had broken it why should he not be forgiven?
Why, too, had Kate turned away from him? He had promised her never to
drink again; he had kept that promise, and, God helping him, he would
always keep it, as would any other man who had seen what he had just
seen to-night. Perhaps he had trespassed in the duel, and yet he would
fight Willits again were the circumstances the same, and in this view
Uncle George upheld him. But suppose he had trespassed--suppose he had
committed a fault--as his father declared--why should not Kate forgive
him? She had forgiven Willits, who was drunk, and yet she would not
forgive him, who had not allowed a drop to pass his lips since he had
given her his promise. How could she, who could do no wrong, expect to
be forgiven herself when she not only shut her door in his face, but
left him without a word or a line? How could his father ask forgiveness
of his God when he would not forgive his son? Why were these two
different from his mother and his Uncle George, and even old Alec--who
had nothing but sympathy for him? Perhaps his education and training had
been at fault. Perhaps, as Richard Horn had said, his standards of
living were old-fashioned and quixotic.
Only when the gray dawn stole in through the small window of his room
did the boy fall asleep.
Not only Kennedy Square, but Moorlands, rang with accounts of the dinner
and its consequences. Most of those who were present and who witnessed
the distressing spectacle had only words of sympathy for the unfortunate
man--his reverent manner, his contrite tones, and abject humiliation
disarming their criticism. They felt that some sudden breaking down of
the barriers of his will, either physical or mental, had led to the
catastrophe. Richard Horn voiced the sentiments of Poe's sympathizers
when, in rehearsing the episode the next afternoon at the club, he had
"His pitiable condition, gentlemen, was not the result of debauchery.
Poe neither spoke nor acted like a drunken man; he spoke and acted like
a man whom a devil had overcome. It was pathetic, gentlemen, and it was
heart-rending--really the most pitiful sight I ever remember witnessing.
His anguish, his struggle, and his surrender I shall never forget; nor
will his God--for the prayer came straight from his heart."
"I don't agree with you, Horn," interrupted Clayton. "Poe was plumb
drunk! It is the infernal corn whiskey he drinks that puts the devil in
him. It may be he can't get anything else, but it's a damnable
concoction all the same. Kennedy has about given him up--told me so
yesterday, and when Kennedy gives a fellow up that's the last of him."
"Then I'm ashamed of Kennedy," retorted Horn. "Any man who can write as
Poe does should be forgiven, no matter what he does--if he be honest.
There's nothing so rare as genius in this world, and even if his flame
does burn from a vile-smelling wick it's a flame, remember!--and one
that will yet light the ages. If I know anything of the literature of
our time Poe will live when these rhymers like Mr. Martin Farquhar
Tupper, whom everybody is talking about, will be forgotten. Poe's
possessed of a devil, I tell you, who gets the better of him once in a
while--it did the night of St. George's dinner."
"Very charitable in you, Richard," exclaimed Pancoast, another
dissenter--"and perhaps it will be just as well for his family, if he
has any, to accept your view--but, devil or no devil, you must confess,
Horn, that it was pretty hard on St. George. If the man has any sense of
refinement--and he must have from the way he writes--the best way out of
it is for him to own up like a man and say that Guy's barkeeper filled
him too full of raw whiskey, and that he didn't come to until it was too
late--that he was very sorry, and wouldn't do it again. That's what I
would have done, and that's what you, Richard, or any other gentleman,
would have done."
Others, who got their information second hand, followed the example of
St. George's guests censuring or excusing the poet in accordance with
their previous likes or dislikes. The "what-did-I-tell-yous"--Bowdoin
among them--and there were several--broke into roars of laughter when
they learned what had happened in the Temple mansion. So did those who
had not been invited, and who still felt some resentment at St. George's
Another group; and these were also to be found at the club--thought only
of St. George--old Murdock, voicing their opinions when he said: "Temple
laid himself out, so I hear, on that dinner, and some of us know what
that means. And a dinner like that, remember, counts with St. George. In
the future it will be just as well to draw the line at poets as well as
The Lord of Moorlands had no patience with any of their views. Whether
Poe was a drunkard or not did not concern him in the least. What did
trouble him was the fact that St. George's cursed independence had made
him so far forget himself and his own birth and breeding as to place a