Part 5 out of 7
No, not for two months or more--not since the letter in which Harry said
he had left the ship and had gone up into the interior. He had, he told
her, mentioned the boy's silence to Kate in a casual way, watching the
effect the news produced upon her--but after the remark that the mails
were always irregular from those far-away countries, she had turned the
conversation into other channels, she having caught sight of Willits,
who had just dismounted from his horse.
As to St. George's own position in the affair he felt that his hands
were still so firmly tied that he could do nothing one way or the other.
His personal intercourse with Willits had been such as he would always
have with a man with whom he was on speaking terms, but it never passed
that border. He was courteous, careful of his speech, and mindful of the
young man's devotion to Kate, whose guardian for the time being he was,
but he neither encouraged nor thwarted his suit. Kate was of age and was
fully competent to decide for herself--extremely competent, for that
How little this clear reader of women's hearts--and scores had been
spread out before him--knew of Kate's, no one but the girl herself could
have told. That she was adrift on an open sea without a rudder, and that
she had already begun to lose confidence both in her seamanship and in
her compass, was becoming more and more apparent to her every day she
lived. All she knew positively was that she had been sailing before the
wind for some weeks past with everything flying loose, and that the time
had now come for her either to "go about" or keep on her course.
Her suitor's family she had carefully considered. She had also studied
his environment and the impression he made upon those who had known him
longest:--she must now focus her mental lenses on the man himself. He
had, she knew, graduated with honors, being the valedictorian of his
class; had risen rapidly in his profession, and, from what her father
said, would soon reach a high place among his brother lawyers. There was
even talk of sending him to the legislature, where her own father, the
Honorable Prim, had achieved his title. She wished, of course, that Mr.
Willits's hair was not quite so red; she wished, too, that the knuckles
on his hands were not so large and bony--and that he was not always at
her beck and call; but these, she was forced to admit, were trifles in
the make-up of a fine man. There was, however, a sane mind under the
carrot-colored hair and a warm palm inside the knotted knuckles, and
that was infinitely more important than little physical peculiarities
which one would forget as life went on. As to his periods of ill health,
these she herself could have prevented had she told him the whole truth
that night on the stairs, or the day before when she had parried his
direct proposal of marriage--a piece of stupidity for which she never
failed to blame herself.
His future conduct did not trouble her in the least. She had long since
become convinced that Willits would never again become intemperate. He
had kept his promise, and this meant more to her than his having given
way to past temptations. The lesson he had learned at the ball had had,
too, its full effect. One he had never forgotten. Over and over again he
had apologized to her for his brutal insolence in laying his profane
hands on her dancing-card and tearing it to bits before her eyes. He
had, moreover, deeply regretted the duel and had sworn to her on his
honor as a gentleman that he would never fight another.
Each time she had listened quietly and had told him how much she was
pleased and how grateful she was for his confidence and how such fine
resolutions redounded to his credit, and yet in thinking it over the
next day she could not help comparing his meek outbursts of sorrow with
Harry's blunt statement made to her the last time she saw him in the
park, when, instead of expressing any regret for having shot Willits, he
had boldly declared that he would do it again if any such insult were
repeated. And strange to say--and this she could not understand in
herself--in all such comparisons Harry came out best.
But:--and here she had to hold on to her rudder with all her might--she
had already made one mistake, tumbling head over heels in love with a
young fellow who had mortified her before the world when their
engagement was less than a few months old, making her name and
affections a byword, and she could not and would not repeat the blunder.
This had shattered her customary self-reliance, leaving her wellnigh
helpless. Perhaps after all--an unheard-of thing in her experience--she
had better seek advice of some older and wiser pilot. Two heads, or even
three--(here her canny Scotch blood asserted itself)--were better than
one in deciding so important a matter as the choosing of a mate for
life. And yet--now she came to think it over--it was not so much a
question of heads as it was a question of shoulders on which the heads
rested. To turn to St. George, or to any member of the Willits kin, was
impossible. Peggy's views she understood. Counsel, however, she must
have, and at once.
Suddenly an inspiration thrilled her like an electric shock--one that
sent the blood tingling to the very roots of her hair. Why had she not
thought of it before! And it must be in the most casual way--quite as a
matter of general conversation, he doing all the talking and she doing
all the listening, for on no account must he suspect her purpose.
Within the hour she had tied the ribbons of her wide leghorn hat under
her dimpled chin, picked up her shawl, and started off alone, following
the lane to the main road. If the judge, by any chance, had adjourned
court he would come straight home and she would meet him on the way. If
he was still engaged in the dispensation of justice, she would wait for
She had judged wisely. Indeed she might have waited for days for some
such moment and not found so favorable an opportunity. His Honor had
already left the bench and was then slowly making his way toward where
she stood, hugging the sidewalk trees the better to shade him from the
increasing heat. As the day had promised to be an unusually warm one, he
had attired himself in a full suit of yellow nankeen, with palm-leaf fan
and wide straw hat--a combination which so matched the color and texture
of his placid, kindly face that Kate could hardly keep from laughing
outright. Instead she quickened her steps until she stood beside him,
her lovely, fresh color heightened by her walk, her eyes sparkling, her
face wreathed in smiles.
"You are lookin' mighty cute, my Lady Kate, in yo' Paisley shawl and
sarsanet pelisse," he called out in his hearty, cheery way. "Has Peggy
seen 'em? I've been tryin' to get her some just like 'em, only my co't
duties are so pressin'. Goodness, gracious me!--but it's gettin' hot!"
Here he stopped and mopped his face, then his eyes fell upon her again:
"Bless my soul, child!--you do look pretty this mornin'--jest like yo'
mother! Where did you get all those pink and white apple-blossoms in yo'
"Do you remember her, Mr. Coston?" she rejoined, ignoring his
"Do I remember her! The belle of fo' counties, my dear--eve'ybody at her
feet; five or six gentlemen co'tin' her at once; old Captain Barkeley,
cross as a bear--wouldn't let her marry this one or that one--kep' her
guessin' night and day, till one of 'em blew his brains out, and then
she fainted dead away. Pretty soon yo' father co'ted her, and bein'
Scotch, like the old captain and sober as an owl and about as cunnin',
it wasn't long befo' everything was settled. Very nice man, yo'
father--got to have things mighty partic'lar; we young bucks used to say
he slept in a bag of lavender and powdered his cheeks every mornin' to
make him look fresh, while most of us were soakin' wet in the
duck-blinds--but that was only our joke. That's long befo' you were
born, child. But yo' mother didn't live long--they said her heart was
broken 'bout the other fellow, but there wasn't a word of truth in that
foolishness--couldn't be. I used to see her and yo' father together long
after that, and she was mighty good to him, and he was to her. Yes--all
comes back to me. Stand still, child, and let me look at
you--yes--you're plumper than yo' mother and a good deal rosier, and you
don't look so slender and white as she did, like one of those pale
Indian pipes she used to hunt in the woods. It's the Seymour in you
that's done that, I reckon."
Kate walked on in silence. It was not the first time that some of her
mother's old friends had told her practically the same story--not so
clearly, perhaps, because few had the simple, outspoken candor of the
old fellow, but enough to let her know that her father was not her
mother's first love.
"Don't be in a hurry, child, and don't let anybody choose for you," he
ran on. "Peggy and I didn't make any mistakes--and don't you. Now this
young son of Parker Willits's"--here his wrinkled face tightened up into
a pucker as if he had just bitten into an unripe persimmon--"good enough
young man, may be; goin' to be something great, I reckon--in Mr. Taney's
office, I hear, or will be next winter. I 'spect he'll keep out of
jail--most Willitses do--but keep an eye on him and watch him, and watch
yo'self too. That's more important still. The cemetery is a long ways
off when you marry the wrong man, child. And that other fellow that
Peggy tells me has been co'tin' you--Talbot Rutter's boy--he's a wild
one,. isn't he?--drunk half the time and fightin' everybody who don't
agree with him. Come pretty nigh endin' young Willits, so they say. Now
I hear he's run away to sea and left all his debts behind. Talbot turned
him neck and heels out of doors when he found it out, so they tell
me--and served the scapegrace right. Don't be in a hurry, child. Right
man will come bime-by. Just the same with Peggy till I come along
--there she is now, bless her sweet heart! Peggy, you darlin'--I got so
lonely for you I just had to 'journ co't. I've been telling Lady Kate
that she mustn't be in a hurry to get married till she finds somebody
that will make her as happy as you and me." Here the judge slipped his
arm around Peggy's capacious waist and the two crossed the pasture as
the nearest way to the house.
Kate kept on her way alone.
Her only reply to the garrulous judge had been one of her rippling
laughs, but it was the laughter of bubbles with the sediment lying deep
in the bottom of the glass.
But all outings must come to an end. And so when the marsh grass on the
lowlands lay in serried waves of dappled satin, and the corn on the
uplands was waist high and the roses a mob of beauty, Kate threw her
arms around Peggy and kissed her over and over again, her whole heart
flowing through her lips; and then the judge got his good-by on his
wrinkled cheek, and the children on any clean spot which she found on
their molasses-covered faces; and then the cavalcade took up its line of
march for the boat-landing, Willits going as far as the wharf, where he
and Kate had a long talk in low tones, in which he seemed to be doing
all the talking and she all the listening--"But nuthin' mo'n jes' a
han'shake" (so Todd told St. George), "he lookin' like he wanter eat her
up an' she kinder sayin' dat de cake ain't brown 'nough yit fur
tastin'--but one thing I know fo' sho'--an' dat is she didn't let 'im
kiss 'er. I wuz leadin' his horse pas' whar dey wuz standin', an' de
sorrel varmint got cuttin' up an' I kep' him prancin' till Mister
Willits couldn't stay wid her no longer. Drat dat red-haided--"
"Stop, Todd--be careful--you mustn't speak that way of Mr. Willits."
"Well, Marse George, I won't--but I ain't neber like him f'om de fust.
He ain't quality an' he neber kin be. How Miss Kate don' stan' him is
mo'n I kin tell."
Kate drove up to her father's house in state, with Ben as special envoy
to see that she and her belongings were properly cared for. St. George
with Todd and the four dogs--six in all--arrived, despite Kate's
protestations, on foot.
Pawson met him at the door. He had given up his boarding-house and had
transferred his traps and parcels to the floor above--into Harry's old
room, really--in order that the additional rent--(he had now taken
entire charge of Temple's finances)--might help in the payment of the
interest on the mortgage. He had thought this all out while St. George
was at Wesley and had moved in without notifying him, that being the
best way to solve the problem--St. George still retaining his bedroom
and dining-room and the use of the front door. Jemima, too, had gone.
She wanted, so she had told her master the day he left with Kate, to
take a holiday and visit some of her people who lived down by the Marsh
Market in an old rookery near the Falls, and would come back when he
sent for her; but Todd had settled all that the morning of his arrival,
the moment he caught sight of her black face.
"Ain't no use yo' comin' back," the darky blurted out. "I'm gwineter do
de cookin' and de chamber-wo'k. Dere ain't 'nough to eat fo' mo'n two.
When dem white-livered, no-count, onery gemmens dat stole Marse George's
money git in de chain-gang, whar dey b'longs, den may be we'll hab
sumpin' to go to market on, but dat ain't yit; an' don't ye tell Marse
George I tol' yer or I'll ha'nt ye like dat witch I done heared 'bout
down to Wesley--ha'nt ye so ye'll think de debble's got ye." To his
master, his only explanation was that Jemima had gone to look after her
sister, who had been taken "wid a mis'ry in her back."
If St. George knew anything of the common talk going on around him no
one was ever the wiser. He continued the even tenor of his life,
visiting and receiving his friends, entertaining his friends in a simple
and inexpensive way: Once Poe had spent an evening with him, when he
made a manly, straightforward apology for his conduct the night of the
dinner, and on another occasion Mr. Kennedy had made an especial point
of missing a train to Washington to have an hour's chat with him. In the
afternoons he would have a rubber of whist with the archdeacon who lived
across the Square--a broad-minded ecclesiastic, who believed in
relaxation, although, of course, he was never seen at the club; or he
might drop into the Chesapeake for a talk with Richard or sit beside him
in his curious laboratory at the rear of his house where he worked out
many of the problems that absorbed his mind and inspired his hopes. At
night, however late or early--whenever he reached home--there was always
a romp with his dogs. This last he rarely omitted. The click of the
front-door latch, followed by his firm step overhead, was their signal,
and up they would come, tumbling over each other in their eagerness to
reach his cheeks--straight up, their paws scraping his clothes; then a
swoop into the dining-room, when they would be "downed" to the floor,
their eyes following his every movement.
Nor had his own financial situation begun as yet to trouble him. Todd
and Pawson, however, had long since become nervous. More than once had
they put their heads together for some plan by which sufficient money
could be raised for current expenses. In this praiseworthy effort, to
Todd's unbounded astonishment, Pawson had one night developed a plan in
which the greatly feared and much-despised Gadgem was to hold first
place. Indeed on the very morning succeeding the receipt of Pawson's
letter and at an hour when St. George would be absent at the club, there
had come a brisk rat-a-tat on the front door and Gadgem had sidled in.
Todd had not seen the collector since that eventful morning when he
stood by ready to pick up the pieces of that gentleman's dismembered
body when his master was about to throw him into the street for doubting
his word, and he now studied him with the greatest interest. The first
thing that struck him was the collector's clothes. As the summer was
approaching he had changed his winter suit for a combination of brown
linen bound with black--(second hand, of course, its former owner having
gone out of mourning) and at the moment sported a moth-eaten, crape-
encircled white beaver with a floppy, two-inch brim, a rusty black stock
that grabbed him close under the chin, completely submerging his collar,
and a pair of congress gaiters very much run down at the heel. He was
evidently master of himself and the situation, for he stood looking from
Todd to the young lawyer, a furtive, anxious expression on his face that
betokened both a surprise at being sent for and a curiosity to learn the
cause, although no word of inquiry passed his lips.
Pawson's opening remark calmed the collector's suspicions.
"EXactly," he answered in a relieved tone, when the plot had been fully
developed, dragging a mate of the red bandanna--a blue one--from his
pocket and blowing his nose in an impressive manner. "EXactly--quite
right--quite right--difficult perhaps--ENORmously difficult
Then there had followed a hurried consultation, during which the
bullet-headed darky absorbed every word, his eyes rolling about in his
head, his breath ending somewhere near his jugular vein.
These details duly agreed upon, Gadgem bowed himself out of the
dining-room, carrying with him a note-book filled with such data as:
2 fowling pieces made by Purdey, 1838.
3 heavy duck guns.
2 English saddles.
1 silver loving cup.
2 silver coasters, etc, etc.,
a list which Todd the night before had prompted and which Pawson, in his
clear, round hand, had transferred to a sheet of foolscap ready for
Gadgem in the morning.
On reaching the front door the collector stopped and looked furtively up
the stairs. He was wondering with professional caution whether St.
George had returned and was within hearing distance. If so much as a
hint should reach Temple's ears the whole scheme would come to naught.
Still in doubt, he called out in his sharpest business voice, as if
prolonging a conversation which had been carried on inside:
"Yes, Mr. Pawson, please say to Mr. Temple that it is GADgem, of GADgem
& Coombs--and say that I will be here at ten o'clock
to-morrow--sharp--on the minute; I am ALways on the minute in matters of
this kind. Only five minutes of his time--five minutes, remember--" and
he passed out of hearing.
Todd, now duly installed as co-conspirator, opened the ball the next
morning at breakfast. St. George had slept late, and the hands of the
marble clock marked but a few minutes of the hour of Gadgem's expected
arrival, and not a moment could be lost.
"Dat Gadgem man done come yere yisterday," he began, drawing out his
master's chair with an extra flourish to hide his nervousness, "an' he
say he's commin' ag'in dis mornin' at ten o'clock. Clar to goodness it's
dat now! I done forgot to tell ye."
"What does he want, Todd?" asked St. George, dropping into his seat.
"I dunno, sah--said he was lookin' fo' sumpin' fo' a frien' ob his--I
think it was a gun--an' he wanted to know what kind to buy fur him--
Yes, sah, dem waffles 's jes' off de fire. He 'lowed he didn't know
nuffin' 'bout guns--butter, sah?--an' den Mister Pawson spoke up an'
said he'd better ask you. He's tame dis time--leastways he 'peared so."
"A fine gun is rather a difficult thing to get in these days, Todd,"
replied St. George, opening his napkin. "Since old Joe Manton died I
don't know but one good maker--and that's Purdey, of London, and he, I
hear, has orders to last him five years. No, Todd--I'd rather have the
"Yes, sah--I knowed ye couldn't do nuffln' fur him--Take de top
piece--dat's de brownest--but he seemed so cut up 'bout it dat I tol'
him he might see ye fur a minute if he come 'long 'bout ten o'clock,
when you was fru' yo' bre'kfus', 'fo' ye got tangled up wid yo' letters
an' de papers. Dat's him now, I spec's. Shall I show him in?"
"Yes, show him in, Todd. Gadgem isn't a bad sort of fellow after all. He
only wants his pound of flesh, like the others. Ah, good-morning, Mr.
Gadgem." The front door had been purposely left open, and though the
bill collector had knocked by way of warning, he had paused for no
answer and was already in the room. The little man laid his battered hat
silently on a chair near the door, pulled down his tight linen sleeves
with the funereal binding, adjusted his high black stock, and with
half-creeping, half-cringing movement, advanced to where St. George sat.
"I said good-morning, Mr. Gadgem," repeated St. George in his most
captivating tone of voice. He had been greatly amused at Gadgem's
"I heard you, sir--I heard you DIStinctly, sir--I was only seeking a
place on which to rest my hat, sir--not a very inSPIRing hat-quite the
contrary--but all I have. Yes, sir--you are quite right--it is a VERY
good morning--a most deLIGHTful morning. I was convinced of that when I
crossed the park, sir. The trees--"
"Never mind the trees, Gadgem. We will take those up later on. Tell me
what I can do for you--what do you want?"
"A GUN, sir--a plain, straightforward GUN--one that can be relied upon.
Not for mySELF, sir--I am not murderously inclined--but for a friend who
has commissioned me--the exact word, sir--although the percentage is
small--comMISsioned me to acquire for him a fowling piece of the
pattern, weight, and build of those belonging to St. George W. Temple,
Esquire, of Kennedy Square-and so I made bold, sir, to--"
"You won't find it, Gadgem," replied St. George, buttering the toast. "I
have two that I have shot with for years that haven't their match in the
State. Todd, bring me one of those small bird guns--there, behind the
door in the rack. Hand it to Mr. Gadgem. Now, can you see by the shape
of--take hold of it, man. But do you know anything about guns?"
"Only enough to keep away from their muzzles, sir." He had it in his
hand now--holding it by the end of the barrel, Todd instinctively
dodging out of the way, although he knew it was not loaded. "No, sir, I
don't know anything--not the very SMALLest thing about guns. There is
nothing, in fact, I know so little about as a gun--that is why I have
come to you."
St. George recovered the piece and laid it as gently on the table beside
his plate as if it had been a newly laid egg.
"No, I don't think you do," he laughed, "or you wouldn't hold it upside
down. Now go on and give me the rest."
Gadgem emitted a chuckle--the nearest he ever came to a laugh: "To have
it go ON, sir, is infinitely preferable than to have it go OFF, sir.
He-he! And you have, I believe you said, two of these highly valuable
implements of death?"
"Yes, five altogether--two of this kind. Here, Todd"--and he picked up
the gun--"put it back behind the door."
Gadgem felt in his inside pocket, produced and consulted a memorandum
with the air of a man who wanted to be entirely sure, and in a bland
"I should think at your time of life--if you will permit me, sir--that
one less gun would not seriously inconvenience you. Would you permit me,
sir, to hope that--"
St. George looked up from his plate and a peculiar expression flitted
across his face.
"You mean you want to buy it?"
The bill collector made a little movement forward and scrutinized St.
George's face with the eye of a hawk. For a man of Temple's kidney to be
without a fowling piece was like a king being without a crown. This was
the crucial moment. Gadgem knew Temple's class, and knew just how
delicately he must be handled. If St. George's pride, or his love for
his favorite chattels--things personal to himself--should overcome him,
the whole scheme would fall to the ground. That any gentleman of his
standing had ever seen the inside of a pawn-shop in his life was
unthinkable. This was what Gadgem faced. As for Todd, he had not drawn a
full breath since Gadgem opened his case.
"Not EXactly buy it, sir," purred Gadgem, twisting his body into an
obsequious spiral. "Men of your position do not traffic in such
things--but if you would be persuaded, sir, for a money consideration
which you would fix yourself--say the ORIGinal cost of the gun--to
spare one of your five--you would greatly delight--in fact, you would
overWHELM with gratitude--a friend of mine."
St. George hesitated, looked out of the window and a brand-new thought
forced its way into his mind--as if a closet had been suddenly opened,
revealing a skeleton he had either forgotten or had put permanently out
of sight. There WAS need of this "original cost"--instant
need--something he had entirely forgotten. Jemima would soon need
it--perhaps needed it at that very minute. He had, it was true, often
kept her waiting: but that was when he could pay at his pleasure; now,
perhaps, he couldn't pay at all.
"All right, Gadgem," he said slowly, a far-away, thoughtful look on his
face--"come to think of it I don't need two guns of this calibre, and I
am quite willing to let this one go, if it will oblige your friend."
Here Todd breathed a sigh of relief so loud and deep that his master
turned his head in inquiry. "As to the price--I'll look that up. Come
and see me again in a day or two. Better take the gun with you now."
The fight had been won, but the risk had been great. Even Pawson could
hardly believe his ears when Gadgem, five minutes later, related the
outcome of the interview.
"Well, then, it will be plain sailing so long as the rest of the things
last," said Pawson, handling the piece with a covetous touch. He too
liked a day off when he could get it. "Who will you sell the gun to,
"God knows--I don't! I'll borrow the money on it somehow--but I can't
see him suffer--no, sir--can't see him SUFfer. It's a pleasure to serve
him--real gentleman--REAL--do you hear, Pawson? No veneer--no sham--no
lies! Damn few such men, I tell you. Never met one before-never will
meet one again. Gave up everything he had for a rattle-brain young
scamp--BEGgared himself to pay his debts--not a drop of the fellow's
blood in his veins either--incredible--inCREDible! Got to handle him
like gunpowder or he'll blow everything into matchsticks. Find out the
price and I'll bring the money to-morrow. Do you pay it to him; I can't.
I'd feel too damn mean after lying to him the way I have. Feel that way
The same scene was practically repeated the following month. It was an
English saddle this time, St. George having two. And it was the same
unknown gentleman who figured as "the much-obliged friend," Pawson
conducting the negotiations and securing the owner's consent. On this
occasion Gadgem sold the saddle outright to the keeper of a livery
stable, whose bills he collected, paying the difference between the
asking and the selling price out of his own pocket.
Gradually, however, St. George awoke to certain unsuspected features of
what was going on around him. The discovery was made one morning when
the go-between was closeted in Pawson's lower office, Pawson conducting
the negotiations in St. George's dining-room. The young attorney, with
Gadgem's assistance, had staved off some accounts until a legal
ultimatum had been reached, and, having but few resources of his own
left, had, with Todd's help, decided that the silver loving-cup
presented to his client's father by the Marquis de Castullux could alone
save the situation--a decision which brought an emphatic refusal from
the owner. This and the discovery of Pawson's and Gadgem's treachery had
greatly incensed him.
"And you tell me, Pawson, that that scoundrel, Gadgem, has--Todd go down
and bring him up here immediately--has had the audacity to run a
pawnshop for my benefit without so much as asking my leave?--peddling my
things?--lying to me straight through?" Here the door opened and
Gadgem's face peered in. He had, as was his custom, crept upstairs so as
to be within instant call when wanted.
"Yes--I am speaking of you, sir. Come inside and shut that door behind
you. You too, Todd. What the devil do you mean, Gadgem, by deceiving me
in this way? Don't you know I would rather have starved to death than--"
Gadgem raised his hand in protest:
"EXactly so, sir. That's what we were afraid of, sir--such an
uncomfortable thing to starve to death, sir--I couldn't permit it,
sir--I'd rather walk my feet off than permit it. I did walk them off--"
"But who asked you to tramp the streets with my things uuder your arm?
And you lied to me about it--you said you wanted to oblige a friend.
There wasn't a word of truth in it, and you know it."
Again Gadgem's hand went out with a pleading "Please-don't" gesture.
"Less than a word, sir--a whole dictionary, less, sir, and UNabridged at
that, if I might be permitted to say it. My friend still has the
implement of death, and not only does he still possess it, but he is
ENORmously obliged. Indeed, I have never SEEN him so happy."
"You mean to tell me, Gadgem," St. George burst out, "that the money you
paid me for the gun really came from a friend of yours?"
"I do, sir." Gadgem's gimlet eye was worming itself into Temple's.
"What's his name?"
"Gadgem, sir--John Gadgem, of Gadgem & Coombs--Gadgem sole survivor,
since Coombs is with the angels; the foreclosure having taken place last
month: hence these weeds." And he lifted the tails of his black coat in
"Out of your own money?"
"Yes, sir--some I had laid away."
St. George wheeled suddenly and stood looking first at Gadgem, then at
Pawson, and last at Todd, as if for confirmation. Then a light broke in
upon him--one that played over his face in uncertain flashes.
"And you did this for me?" he asked thoughtfully, fixing his gaze on
"I did, sir," came the answer in a meek voice, as if he had been
detected in filching an apple from a stand; "and I would do it again--do
it over and over again. And it has been a great pleasure for me to do
it. I might say, sir, that it has been a kind of exTREME bliss to do
"Why?" There was a tremor now in Temple's voice that even Todd had never
Gadgem turned his head away. "I don't know, sir," he replied in a lower
tone. "I couldn't explain it on oath; I don't care to explain it, sir."
No lie could serve him now--better make a clean breast of the villany.
"And you still own the gun?" Todd had never seen his master so gentle
before--not under a provocation such as this.
"I do, sir." Gadgem's voice was barely audible.
"Then it means that you have locked up just that much of your own money
for a thing you can never use yourself and can't sell. Am I right?"
Gadgem lowered his head and for a moment studied the carpet. His
activities, now that the cat was out of the bag, were fair subjects for
discussion, but not his charities.
"I prefer not to answer, sir, and--" the last words died in his throat.
"But it's true, isn't it?" persisted St. George. He had never once taken
his eyes from Gadgem.
"Yes, it's true."
St. George turned on his heel, walked to the mantel, stood for an
instant gazing into the empty fireplace, and then, with that same
straightening of his shoulders and lift of his head which his friends
knew so well when he was deeply stirred, confronted the collector again:
"Gadgem!" He stopped and caught his breath. For a moment it seemed as if
something in his throat choked his utterance. "Gadgem--give me your
hand! Do you know you are a gentleman and a thoroughbred! No--don't
speak--don't explain. We understand each other. Todd, bring three
glasses and hand me what is left of the old Port. And do you join us,
Todd, whose eyes had been popping from his head during the entire
interview, and who was still amazed at the outcome, suddenly woke to the
dangers of the situation: on no account must his master's straits be
further revealed. He raised his hand as a signal to St. George, who was
still looking into Gadgem's eyes, screwed his face into a tangle of
puckers and in a husky whisper muttered, so low that only his master
"Dat Port, Marse George"--one eye now went entirely out in a wink--"is
gittin' a leetle mite low" (there hadn't been a drop of it in the house
for six months) "an' if--"
"Well, then, that old Brown Sherry--get a fresh bottle, Todd--" St.
George was quite honest, and so, for that matter, was Todd: the Brown
Sherry had also seen its day.
"Yes, sah--but how would dat fine ol' peach brandy de jedge gin ye do?
It's sp'ilin' to be tasted, sah." Both eyes were now in eclipse in the
effort to apprise his master that with the exception of some badly
corked Madeira, Tom Coston's peach brandy was about the only beverage
left in the cellar.
"Well, the old peach brandy, then--get it at once and serve it in the
St. George had now reached the last stage of his poverty. The selling or
pawning of the few valuables left him had been consummated and with the
greatest delicacy, so as best to spare his feelings. That he had been
assisted by hitherto unknown friends who had sacrificed their own
balances in his behalf, added temporarily to his comforts but did not
lessen the gravity of the present situation. The fact remained that with
the exception of a few possible assets he was practically penniless.
Every old debt that could be collected--and Gadgem had been a scourge
and a flaming sword as the weeks went on in their gathering--had been
rounded up. Even his minor interests in two small ground rents had,
thanks to Pawson, been cashed some years in advance. His available
resources were now represented by some guns, old books, bridles, another
saddle, his rare Chinese punch-bowl and its teakwood stand, and a few
remaining odds and ends.
He could hope for no payment from the Patapsco--certainly not for some
years; nor could he raise money even on these hopes, the general opinion
being that despite the efforts of John Gorsuch, Rutter, and Harding to
punish the guilty and resuscitate the innocent, the bank would finally
collapse without a cent being paid the depositors. As for that old
family suit, it had been in the courts for forty-odd years and it was
likely to be there forty-odd years more before a penny would be realized
from the settlement.
Had he been differently constructed--he a man with scores and scores of
friends, many of whom would gladly have helped him--he might have made
his wants known; but such was not his make-up. The men to whom he could
apply--men like Horn, the archdeacon, Murdoch, and one or two
others--had no money of their own to spare, and as for wealthier
men--men like Rutter and Harding--starvation itself would be preferable
to an indebtedness of that kind. Then again, he did not want his poverty
known. He had defied Talbot Rutter, and had practically shown him the
door when the colonel doubted his ability to pay Harry's debts and still
live, and no humiliation would be greater than to see Rutter's
satisfaction over his abject surrender. No--if the worst came to the
worst, he would slip back to Wesley, where he was always welcome and
take up the practice of the law, which he had abandoned since his
father's death, and thus earn money enough not to be a burden to Peggy.
In the meantime something might turn up. Perhaps another of Gadgem's
thumb-screws could be fastened on some delinquent and thus extort a drop
or two; or the bank might begin paying ten per cent.; or another
prepayment might be squeezed out of a ground rent. If none of these
things turned out to his advantage, then Gadgem and Pawson must continue
their search for customers who would have the rare opportunity of
purchasing, direct "from the private collection of a gentleman," etc.,
etc., "one first-class English saddle," etc., etc.
"The meantime," however, brought no relief. Indeed so acute had the
financial strain become that another and a greater sacrifice--one that
fairly cut his heart in two--faced him--the parting with his dogs. That
four mouths besides his own and Todd's were too many to feed had of late
become painfully evident. He might send them to Wesley. of course, but
then he remembered that no one at Tom Coston's ever had a gun in their
hands, and they would only be a charge and a nuisance to Peggy. Or he
might send them up into Carroll County to a farmer friend, but in that
case he would have to pay their keep, and he needed the money for those
at home. And so he waited and pondered.
A coachman from across the park solved the difficulty a day or two later
with a whispered word in Todd's ear, which set the boy's temper
ablaze--for he dearly loved the dogs himself--until he had talked it
over with Pawson and Gadgem, and had then broken the news to his master
as best he could.
"Dem dogs is eatin' dere haids off," he began, fidgeting about the
table, brushing the crumbs on to a tray only to spill half of them on
the floor--"an' Mister Floyd's coachman done say dat his young marster's
jes' a-dyin' for 'em an' don't cyar what he pay for 'em, dat is if ye--"
but St. George cut him short.
"What did you say, Todd?"
"Why dat young marster dat's jes' come up f'om Ann'rundel--got mo' money
den he kin th'ow 'way I yere."
"And they are eating their heads off, are they?--and he wants to swap
his dirty money for my--Yes--I know. They think they can buy anything
with a banknote. And its Floe and Dandy and Sue and Rupert, is it? And
I'm to sell them--I who have slept with them and ate with them and
hugged them a thousand times. Of course they eat their heads off.
Yes--don't say another word. Send them up one at a time--Floe first!"
The scene that followed always lingered in his mind. For days thereafter
he could not mention their name, even to Todd, without the tears
springing to his eyes.
Up the kitchen flight they tumbled--not one at a time, but all in a
scramble, bounding straight at him, slobbering all over his face and
hands, their paws scraping his clothes--each trying to climb into his
lap--big Gordon setters, all four. He swept them off and ranged them in
a row before his arm-chair with their noses flat to the carpet, their
brown agate eyes following his every movement.
"Todd says you eat too much, you damned rascals!" he cried in enforced
gayety, leaning forward, shaking his finger in their faces. "What the
devil do you mean, coming into a gentleman's private apartments and
eating him out of house and home!--and that's what you're doing. I'm
going to sell you!--do you hear that?--sell you to some stingy
curmudgeon who'll starve you to death, and that's what you deserve! ...
Come here, Floe--you dear old doggie, you--nice Floe! ... Here,
Dandy--Rupert--Sue!" They were all in his arms, their cold noses
snuggled under his warm chin. But this time he didn't care what they did
to his clothes--nor what he did to them. He was alone; Todd had gone
down to the kitchen--only he and the four companions so dear to his
heart. "Come here, you imp of the devil," he continued, rubbing Floe's
ears--he loved her best--pinching her nose until her teeth showed;
patting her flanks, crooning over her as a woman would over a child,
talking to himself all the time. "I wonder if Floyd will be good to
them! If I thought he wouldn't I'd rather starve than--No--I reckon
it's all right--he's got plenty of room and plenty of people to look
after them." Then he rose from his chair and drew his hand across his
forehead. "Got to sell my dogs, eh? Turned traitor, have you, Mr.
Temple, and gone back on your best friends? By God! I wonder what will
come next?" He strode across the room, rang for Todd, and bending down
loosened a collar from Dandy's neck, on which his own name was engraved,
"St. George Wilmot Temple, Esquire." "Esquire, eh?" he muttered, reading
the plate. "What a damned lie! Property of a pauper living on pawnshops
and a bill collector! Nice piece of business, St. George--fine record
for your blood and breeding! Ah, Todd--that you? Well, take them
downstairs and send word to Mr. Floyd's man to call for them to-night,
and when you come back I'll have a letter ready for you. Come here, you
rascals, and let me hug one or two of you. Good Floe--good doggie." Then
the long-fought choke in his throat strangled him. "Take them away,
Todd," he said in a husky voice, straightening his shoulders as if the
better to get his breath, and with a deep indrawn sigh walked slowly
into his bedroom and shut the door behind him.
Half an hour later there followed a short note, written on one of his
few remaining sheets of English paper, addressed to the new owner, in
which he informed that gentleman that he bespoke for his late companions
the same care and attention which he had always given them himself, and
which they so richly deserved, and which he felt sure they would
continue to receive while in the service of his esteemed and honored
correspondent. This he sealed in wax and stamped with his crest; and
this was duly delivered by Todd--and so the painful incident had come to
The dogs disposed of, there still remained to him another issue to
meet--the wages he owed Jemima. Although she had not allowed the subject
to pass her lips--not even to Todd--St. George knew that she needed the
money--she being a free woman and her earnings her own--not a master's.
He had twice before determined to set aside enough money from former
cash receipts to liquidate Jemima's debt--once from the proceeds of
Gadgem's gun and again from what Floyd paid him for the dogs--but Todd
had insisted with such vehemence that he needed it for the marketing,
that he had let it go over.
The one remaining object of real value was the famous loving-cup. With
this turned into money he would be able to pay Jemima in full. For days
he debated the matter with himself, putting the question in a dozen
different lights: it was not really HIS cup, but belonged to the family,
he being only its custodian; it would reflect on his personal honor if
he traded so distinguished a gift--one marking the esteem in which his
dead father had been held, etc. Then the round, good-natured face and
bent figure of his old stand-by and comfort--who had worked for him and
for his father almost all her life--rose before him, she bending over
her tubs earning the bread to keep her alive, and with this picture in
his mind all his fine-spun theories vanished into thin air. Todd was
summoned and thus the last connecting link between the past and present
was broken and the precious heirloom turned over to Kirk, the
silversmith, who the next day found a purchaser with one of the French
secretaries in Washington, a descendant of the marquis.
With the whole of the purchase money in his hands and his mind firmly
made up he rang for his servant:
"Come along, Todd--show me where Aunt Jemima lives--it's somewhere down
by the market, I hear--I'm going now."
The darky's face got as near white as his skin would allow: this was the
last thing he had expected.
"Dat ain't no fit place for ye, Marse George," he stammered. "I'll go
an' git her an' bring her up; she tol' me when I carried dat las'
washin' down she wuz a-comin' dis week."
"No, her sister is sick and she is needed where she is. Get your basket
and come along--you can do your marketing down there. Bring me my hat
and cane. What's the matter with her sister, do you know?"
Again the darky hedged: "Dunno, sah--some kin' o' mis'ry in her back I
reckon. Las' time Aunt Jemima was yere she say de doctor 'lowed her
kittens was 'fected." (It was another invalid limping past the front
steps who had put that in his head.)
St. George roared: "Well, whatever she's got, I'm going to pay my
respects to her; I've neglected Aunt Jemima too long. No--my best
hat--don't forget that I'm going to call on a very distinguished colored
lady. Come, out with it. How far does she live from the market?"
"Jes' 'bout's far's from yere to de church. Is you gwine now? I got a
heap o' cleanin' ter do--dem steps is all gormed up, dey's dat dirty.
Maybe we better go when--"
"Not another word out of you! I'm going now." He could feel the money in
his pocket and he could not wait. "Get your basket."
Todd led the way and the two crossed the park and struck out for the
lower part of the city, near Jones Falls, into a district surrounded by
one-and two-story houses inhabited by the poorer class of whites and
the more well-to-do free negroes. Here the streets, especially those
which ran to the wharves, were narrow and ill-paved, their rough cobbles
being often obstructed by idle drays, heavy anchors, and rusting
anchor-chains, all on free storage. Up one of these crooked streets,
screened from the brick sidewalk by a measly wooden fence, stood a
two-story wooden house, its front yard decorated with clothes-lines
running criss-cross from thumbs of fence-posts to fingers of shutters--a
sort of cat's-cradle along whose meshes Aunt Jemima hung her wet
On this particular day what was left of St. George Temple's wardrobe and
bed linen, with the exception of what that gentleman had on his back,
was either waving in the cool air of the morning or being clothes-
pinned so that it might wave later on.
Todd's anxious face was the first to thrust itself from around the
corner of a sagging, sloppy sheet. The two had entered the gate in the
fence at the same moment, but St. George had been lost in the maze of
"Go'way f'om dar, you fool nigger, mussin' up my wash! Keep yo' black
haid off'er dem sheets, I tell ye, 'fo' I smack ye! An' ye needn't come
down yere a-sassin' me 'bout Marse George's clo'es, 'cause dey ain't
done--" (here Temple's head came into view, his face in a broad smile).
"Well, fer de lan's sakes, Marse George. What ye come down yere fer?
Here--lemme git dat basket outer yo' way--No, dem hands ain't fit fer
nobody to shake--My!--but I's mighty glad ter see ye! Don't tell me ye
come fer dat wash--I been so pestered wid de weather--nothin' don't
He had dodged a wet sheet and had the old woman by the hand now, her
face in a broad grin at sight of him.
"No, aunty--I came down to pay you some money."
"You don't owe me no money--leastwise you don't owe me nothin' till ye
kin pay it," and she darted an annihilating glance at Todd.
"Yes, I do--but let me see where you live. What a fine place--plenty of
room except on wash-days. All those mine?--I didn't know I had that many
clothes left. Pick up that basket, Todd, and bring it in for aunty." The
two made their way between the wet linen and found themselves in front
of the dwelling. "And is this all yours?"
"De fust flo' front an 'back is mine an' de top flo' I rents out. Got a
white man in dere now dat works in de lumber yard. Jes' come up an' see
how I fixed it up."
"And tell me about your sister--is she better?" he continued.
The old woman put her arms akimbo: "Lawd bress ye, Marse George!--who
done tol' ye dat fool lie! I ain't got no sister--not yere!"
"Why, I thought you couldn't come back to me because you had to nurse
some member of your family who had kittens, or some such misery in her
spine--wasn't that it, Todd?" said St. George trying to conceal a
Todd shot a beseeching look at Jemima to confirm his picturesque yarn,
but the old woman would have none of it.
"Dere ain't been nobody to tek care ob but des me. I come yere 'cause I
knowed ye didn't hab no money to keep me, an' I got back de ol'
furniture what I had fo' I come to lib wid ye, an' went to washin', an'
if dat yaller skunk's been tellin' any lies 'bout me I'm gwineter wring
"No, let Todd alone," laughed St. George, his heart warming to the old
woman at this further proof of her love for him. "The Lord has already
forgiven him that lie, and so have I. And now what have you got
They had mounted the steps by this time and St. George was peering into
a clean, simply furnished room. "First rate, aunty--your lumber-yard man
is in luck. And now put that in your pocket," and he handed her the
"Nearly half a year's wages."
"I ain't gwineter take it," she snapped back in a positive tone.
St. George laid his hand tenderly on the old woman's shoulder. She had
served him faithfully for many years and he was very fond of her.
"Tuck it in your bosom, aunty--it should have been paid long ago."
She looked at him shrewdly: "Did de bank pay ye yit, Marse George?"
"Den I ain't gwineter tech it--I ain't gwineter tech a fip ob it!" she
exploded. "How I know ye ain't a-sufferin' fer it! See dat wash?--an' I
got anudder room to rent if I'm min' ter scrunch up a leetle mo'. I kin
St. George's hand again tightened on her shoulder.
"Take it when you can get it, aunty," he said in a more serious tone,
and turning on his heel joined Todd below, leaving the old woman in
tears at the top of the stairs, the money on her limp outspread fingers.
All the way back to his home--they had stopped to replenish the larder
at the market--St. George kept up his spirits. Absurd as it was--he a
man tottering on the brink of dire poverty--the situation from his
stand-point was far from perilous. He had discharged the one debt that
had caused him the most anxiety--the money due the faithful old cook;
he had a basketful of good things--among them half a dozen quail and
three diamond-back terrapin--the cheapest food in the market--and he had
funds left for his immediate wants.
With this feeling of contentment permeating his mind something of the
old feeling of independence, with its indifference toward the dollar and
what it meant and could bring him, welled up in his heart. For a time at
least the spectre of debt lay hidden. A certain old-time happiness began
to show itself in his face and bearing. So evident was this that before
many days had passed even Todd noticed the return of his old buoyancy,
and so felt privileged to discuss his own feelings, now that the secret
of their mode of earning a common livelihood was no longer a bugbear to
"Dem taters what we got outer de extry sterrups of dat ridin'-saddle is
mos' gone," he ventured one morning at breakfast, when the remains of
the cup money had reached a low ebb. "Shall I tote de udder saddle down
to dat Gadgem man"--(he never called him anything else, although of late
he had conceived a marked respect for the collector)--"or shall I keep
it fer some mo' sugar?"
"What else is short, Todd?" said St. George, good-naturedly, helping
himself to another piece of corn bread.
"Well, dere's plenty ob dose decanter crackers and de pair ob andirons
is still holdin' out wid de mango pickles an' de cheese, but dat pair ob
ridin'-boots is mos' gone. We got half barrel ob flour an' a bag o'
coffee, ye 'member, wid dem boots. I done seen some smoked herrin' in de
market yisterday mawnin' 'd go mighty good wid de buckwheat cakes an'
sugar-house 'lasses--only we ain't got no 'lasses. I was a-thinkin' dem
two ol' cheers in de garret 'd come in handy; ain't nobody sot in em
since I been yere; de bottoms is outen one o' dem, but de legs an' backs
is good 'nough fer a quart o' 'lasses. I kin take 'em down to de same
place dat Gadgem man tol' me to take de big brass shovel an' tongs--"
"All right, Todd," rejoined St. George, highly amused at the boy's
economic resources. "Anything that Mr. Gadgem recommends I agree to.
Yes--take him the chairs--both of them."
Even the men at the club had noticed the change and congratulated him on
his good spirits. None of them knew of his desperate straits, although
many of them had remarked on the differences in his hospitality, while
some of the younger gallants--men who made a study of the height and
roll of the collars of their coats and the latest cut of
waistcoats--especially the increased width of the frogs on the lapels--
had whispered to each other that Temple's clothes certainly needed
overhauling; more particularly his shirts, which were much the worse for
wear: one critic laying the seeming indifference to the carelessness of
a man who was growing old; another shaking his head with the remark that
it was Poole's bill which was growing old--older by a good deal than the
clothes, and that it would have to be patched and darned with one of old
George Brown's (the banker's) scraps of paper before the wearer could
regain his reputation of being the best-dressed man in or out of the
None of these lapses from his former well-to-do estate made any
difference, however, to St. George's intimates when it came to the
selection of important guests for places at table or to assist in the
success of some unusual function. Almost every one in and around Kennedy
Square had been crippled in their finances by the failure, not only of
the Patapsco, but by kindred institutions, during the preceding few
years. Why, then, they argued, should any one criticise such economies
as Temple was practising? He was still living in his house with his
servants--one or two less, perhaps--but still in comfort, and if he did
not entertain as heretofore, what of it? His old love of sport, as was
shown by his frequent visits to his estates on the Eastern Shore, might
account for some of the changes in his hospitable habits, there not
being money enough to keep up establishments both in country and town.
These changes, of course, could only be temporary. His properties on the
peninsula--(almost everybody had "properties" in those days, whether
imaginary or real)--would come up some day, and then all would be well
The House of Seymour was particularly in the dark. The Honorable Prim,
in his dense ignorance, had even asked St. George to join in one of his
commercial enterprises--the building of a new clipper ship--while Kate,
who had never waited five minutes in all her life for anything that a
dollar could buy, had begged a subscription for a charity she was
managing, and which she received with a kiss and a laugh, and without a
moment's hesitation, from a purse shrinking steadily by the hour.
Only when some idle jest or well-meant inquiry diverted his mind to the
chain of events leading up to Harry's exile was his insistent
cheerfulness under his fast accumulating misfortunes ever checked.
Todd was the cruel disturber on this particular day, with a bit of
information which, by reason of its source, St. George judged must be
true, and which because of its import brought him infinite pain.
"Purty soon we won't hab 'nough spoons to stir a toddy wid," Todd had
begun. "I tell ye, Marse George, dey ain't none o' dem gwine down in
dere pockets till de constable gits 'em. I jes' wish Marse Harry was
yere--he'd fix 'em. 'Fo' dey knowed whar dey wuz he'd hab 'em full o'
holes. Dat red-haided, no-count gemman what's a-makin up to Miss Kate is
gwineter git her fo' sho--"
It was here that St. George had raised his head, his heart in his mouth.
"How do you know, Todd?" he asked in a serious tone. He had long since
ceased correcting Todd for his oustpoken reflections on Kate's suitor as
a useless expenditure of time.
"'Cause Mammy Henny done tol' Aunt Jemima so--an' she purty nigh cried
her eyes out when she said it. Ye ain't heared nothin' 'bout Marse Harry
comin' home, is ye?"
"No--not a word--not for many months, Todd. He's up in the mountains, so
his mother tells me."
Whereupon Todd had gulped down an imprecation expressive of his feelings
and had gone about his duties, while St. George had buried himself in
his easy-chair, his eyes fixed on vacancy, his soul all the more
a-hungered for the boy he loved. He wondered where the lad was--why he
hadn't written. Whether the fever had overtaken him and he laid up in
some filthy hospital. Almost every week his mother had either come
herself or sent in for news, accompanied by messages expressing some new
phase of her anxiety. Or had he grown and broadened out and become big
and strong?--whom had he met, and how had they treated him?--and would
he want to leave home again when once he came back? Then, as always,
there came a feeling of intense relief. He thanked God that Harry WASN'T
at home; a daily witness of the shrinkage of his resources and the
shifts to which he was being put. This would be ten times worse for him
to bear than the loss of the boy's companionship. Harry would then
upbraid him for the sacrifices he had made for him, as if he would not
take every step over again! Take them!--of course he would take
them!--so would any other gentleman. Not to have come to Harry's rescue
in that the most critical hour of his life, when he was disowned by his
father, rejected by his sweetheart, and hounded by creditors, not one of
whom did he justly owe, was unthinkable, absolutely unthinkable, and not
worth a moment's consideration.
And so he would sit and muse, his head in his hand, his well-rounded
legs stretched toward the fire, his white, shapely fingers tapping the
arms of his chair--each click so many telegraphic records of the
workings of his mind.
With the closing in of the autumn and the coming of the first winter
cold, the denizens of Kennedy Square gave themselves over to the
season's entertainments. Mrs. Cheston, as was her usual custom, issued
invitations for a ball--this one in honor of the officers who had
distinguished themselves in the Mexican War. Major Clayton, Bowdoin, the
Murdochs, Stirlings, and Howards--all persons of the highest
quality--inaugurated a series of chess tournaments, the several players
and those who came to look on to be thereafter comforted with such
toothsome solids as wild turkey, terrapin, and olio, and such delectable
liquids as were stored in the cellars of their hosts. Old Judge
Pancoast, yielding to the general demand, gave an oyster roast--his
enormous kitchen being the place of all others for such a function. On
this occasion two long wooden tables were scoured to an unprecedented
whiteness--the young girls in white aprons and the young men in white
jackets serving as waiters--and laid with wooden plates, and two big
wooden bowls--one for the hot, sizzling shells just off their bed of
hickory coals banked on the kitchen hearth, and the other for the empty
ones--the fun continuing until the wee sma' hours of the morning.
The Honorable Prim and his charming daughter, not to be outdone by their
neighbors, cleared the front drawing-room of its heavy furniture,
covered every inch of the tufted carpet with linen crash, and with old
black Jones as fiddler and M. Robinette--a French exile--as instructor
in the cutting of pigeon wings and the proper turning out of ankles and
toes, opened the first of a series of morning soirees for the young folk
of the neighborhood, to which were invited not only their mothers, but
their black mammies as well.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Horn, not having any blithesome daughter, nor any
full-grown son--Oliver being but a child of six--and Richard and his
charming wife having long since given up their dancing-slippers--were
good enough to announce--(and it was astonishing what an excitement it
raised)--that "On the Monday night following Mr. Horn would read aloud,
to such of his friends as would do him the honor of being present, the
latest Christmas story by Mr. Charles Dickens, entitled 'The Cricket on
the Hearth.'" For this occasion Mr. Kennedy had loaned him his own copy,
one of the earliest bound volumes, bearing on its fly-leaf an
inscription in the great master's own handwriting in which he thanked
the distinguished author of "Swallow Barn" for the many kindnesses he
had shown him during his visit to America, and begged his indulgence for
his third attempt to express between covers the sentiment and feeling of
the Christmas season.
Not that this was an unusual form of entertainment, nor one that excited
special comment. Almost every neighborhood had its morning (and often
its evening) "Readings," presided over by some one who read well and
without fatigue--some sweet old maid, perhaps, who knew how to grow old
gracefully. At these times a table would be rolled into the library by
the deferential servant of the house, on which he would place the dear
lady's spectacles and a book, its ivory marker showing where the last
reading had ended--it might be Prescott's "Ferdinand and Isabella," or
Irving's "Granada," or Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," or perhaps, Dickens's
At eleven o'clock the girls would begin to arrive, each one bringing her
needle-work of some kind--worsted, or embroidery, or
knitting--something she could manage without discomfort to herself or
anybody about her, and when the last young lady was in her seat, the
same noiseless darky would tiptoe in and take his place behind the old
maid's chair. Then he would slip a stool under her absurdly small
slippers and tiptoe out again, shutting the door behind him as quietly
as if he found the dear lady asleep--and so the reading would begin.
A reading by Richard, however, was always an event of unusual
importance, and an invitation to be present was never declined whether
received by letter or by word of mouth.
St. George had been looking forward eagerly to the night, and when the
shadows began to fall in his now almost bare bedroom, he sent for Todd
to help him dress.
"Have you got a shirt for me, Todd?"
"Got seben oh 'em. Dey wants a li'l' trimmin' roun' de aidges, but I
reckon we kin make 'em do--Aunt Jemima sont 'em home dis mawnin'. She's
been a-workin' on 'em, she says. Looks ter me like a goat had a moufful
outer dis yere sleeve, but I dassent tell er so. Lot o' dem butters
wanderin' roun' dat Marsh market lookin' fer sumpin' to eat; lemme gib
dem boots anudder tech."
Todd skipped downstairs with the boots and St. George continued
dressing; selecting his best and most becoming scarf; pinning down the
lapels of his buff waistcoat; scissoring the points of his high collar,
and with Todd's assistance working his arms between the slits in the
silk lining of the sleeves of his blue cloth, brass-buttoned coat, which
he finally pulled into place across his chest.
And a well-dressed man he was in spite of the frayed edges of his collar
and shirt ruffles and the shiny spots in his trousers and coat where the
nap was worn smooth, nor was there any man of his age who wore his
clothes as well, no matter what their condition, or one who made so
debonair an appearance.
Pawson was of that opinion to-night when St. George, his toilet
complete, joined him at the bottom of the stairs. Indeed he thought he
had never seen his client look better--a discovery which sent a spasm of
satisfaction through his long body, for he had a piece of important news
to tell him, and had been trying all day to make up his mind how best to
"You look younger, Mr. Temple," he began, "and, if you will allow me to
say so, handsomer, every day. Your trip to the Eastern Shore last spring
did you no end of good," and the young attorney crooked his long neck
and elevated his eyebrows and the corners of his mouth in the effort to
give to his sinuous body a semblance of mirth.
"Thank you, Pawson," bowed St. George, graciously. "You are really most
kind, but that is because you are stone blind. My shirt is full of
holes, and it is quite likely I shall have to stand all the evening for
fear of splitting the knees of my breeches. Come--out with it"--he
laughed--"there is something you have to tell me or you would not be
waiting for me here at this hour in the cold hall."
Pawson smiled faintly, then his eyebrows lost their identity in some
well-defined wrinkles in his forehead.
"I have, sir, a most unpleasant thing to tell you--a very unpleasant
thing. When I tried this morning for a few days' grace on that last
overdue payment, the agent informed me, to my great surprise, that Mr.
John Gorsuch had bought the mortgage and would thereafter collect the
interest in person. I am not sure, of course, but I am afraid Colonel
Rutter is behind the purchase. If he is we must be prepared to face the
worst should he still feel toward you as he did when you and he"--and he
jerked his thumb meaningly in the direction of the dining-room--"had it
St. George compressed his lips. "And so Rutter holds the big end of the
whip after all, does he?" he exclaimed with some heat. "He will find the
skin on my back not a very valuable asset, but he is welcome to it. He
has about everything else."
"But I'd rather pay it somehow if we could," rejoined Pawson in a
furtive way--as if he had something up his sleeve he dare not spring
"Yes--of course you would," retorted St. George with a cynical laugh,
slipping on his gloves. "Pay it?--of course pay it. Pay everything and
everybody! What do you think I'd bring at auction, Pawson? I'm white,
you know, and so I can't be sold on the block--but the doctors might
offer you a trifle for cutting-up purposes. Bah! Hand me my coat, Todd."
A deprecatory smile flitted across the long, thin face of the attorney.
He saw that St. George was in no mood for serious things, and yet
something must be done; certainly before the arrival of Gorsuch himself,
who was known to be an exact man of business and who would have his
rights, no matter who suffered.
"I had a little plan, sir--but you might not fall in with it. It would,
perhaps, be only temporary, but it is all I can think of. I had an
applicant this morning--in fact it came within an hour after I had
heard the news. It seemed almost providential, sir."
St. George was facing the door, ready to leave the house, his shoulders
still bent forward so that Todd could adjust his heavy cloak the better,
when for the first time the anxious tone in Pawson's voice caught his
attention. As the words fell from the attorney's lips he straightened,
and Todd stepped back, the garment still in the darky's hands.
"An applicant for what?" he inquired in a graver tone. He was not
surprised--nothing surprised him in these days--he was only curious.
"For the rooms you occupy. I can get enough for them, sir, not only to
clear up the back interest, but to keep the mortgage alive and--"
St. George's face paled as the full meaning of Pawson's proposal dawned
in his mind. That was the last thing he had expected.
"Turn me into the street, eh?" There was a note of pained surprise in
"I don't want you to put it that way, sir." His heart really bled for
him--it was all he could do to control himself.
"How the devil else can I put it?"
"Well, I thought you might want to do a little shooting, sir."
"Shooting! What with? One of Gadgem's guns? Hire it of him, eh, and
steal the powder and shot!" he cried savagely.
"Yes--if you saw fit, sir. Gadgem, I am sure, would be most willing, and
you can always get plenty of ammunition. Anyway, you might pass a few
months with your kinsfolk on the Eastern Shore, whether you hunted or
not; it did you so much good before. The winter here is always wearing,
sloppy and wet. I've heard you say so repeatedly." He had not taken his
eyes from his face; he knew this was St. George's final stage, and he
knew too that he would never again enter the home he loved; but this
last he could not tell him outright. He would rather have cut his right
hand off than tell him at all. Being even the humblest instrument in the
exiling of a man like St. George Wilmot Temple was in itself a torture.
"And when do you want me to quit?" he said calmly. "I suppose I can
evacuate like an officer and a gentleman and carry my side-arms with
me--my father's cane, for instance, that I can neither sell nor pawn,
and a case of razors which are past sharpening?" and his smile broadened
as the humor of the thing stole over him.
"Well, sir, it ought to be done," continued Pawson in his most serious
tone, ignoring the sacrifice--(there was nothing funny in the situation
to the attorney)--"well--I should say--right away. To-morrow, perhaps.
This news of Gorsuch has come very sudden, you know. If I can show him
that the new tenant has moved in already he might wait until his first
month's rent was paid. You see that--"
"Oh, yes, Pawson, I see--see it all clear as day," interrupted St.
George--"have been seeing it for some months past, although neither you
nor Gadgem seem to have been aware of that fact." This came with so
grave a tone that Pawson raised his eyes inquiringly. "And who is this
man," Temple went on, "who wants to step into my shoes? Be sure you tell
him they are half-soled," and he held up one boot. He might want to
dance or hunt in them--and his toes would be out the first thing he
"He is Mr. Gorsuch's attorney, sir, a Mr. Fogbin," Pawson answered,
omitting any reference to the boots and still concerned over the gravity
of the situation. "He did some work once for Colonel Rutter, and that's
how Gorsuch got hold of him. That's why I suspect the colonel. This
would make the interest sure, you see--rather a sly game, is it not,
sir? One I did not expect."
St. George pondered for a moment, and his eye fell on his servant.
"And what will I do with Todd?"
The darky's eyes had been rolling round in his head as the talk
continued, Pawson, knowing how leaky he was, having told him nothing of
the impending calamity for fear he would break it to his master in the
"I should say take him with you," came the positive answer.
"Take him with me! You didn't think I would be separated from him, did
you?" cried St. George, indignantly, the first note of positive anger he
had yet shown.
"I didn't think anything about it, sir," and he looked at Todd
"Well, after this please remember, Mr. Pawson, that where I go Todd
The darky leaned forward as if to seize St. George's hand; his eyes
filled and his lips began to tremble. He would rather have died than
have left his master.
St. George walked to the door, threw it open, and stood for an instant,
his eyes fixed on the bare trees in the park. He turned and faced the
"Yes, Marse George--" Two hot ragged tears still lingered on the darky's
"To-day is Monday, is it not?--and to-morrow is boat day?"
"Yes, Marse George," came the trembling answer.
"All right, Pawson, I'll go. Let Talbot Rutter have the rest--he's
welcome to it. Now for my cloak, Todd--so--and my neckerchief and cane.
Thank you very much, Pawson. You have been very kind about it all, and I
know quite well what it has cost you to tell me this. You can't
help--neither can I--neither, for that matter, can Gorsuch--nor is it
his fault. It is Rutter's, and he will one day get his reckoning.
Good-night--don't sit up too late. I am going to Mr. Horn's to spend the
evening. Walk along with me through the Park, Todd, so I can talk to
you. And, Todd," he continued when they had entered the path and were
bending their steps to the Horn house, "I want you to gather together
to-morrow what are left of my clothes and pack them in one of those hair
trunks upstairs--and your own things in another. Never mind about
waiting for the wash. I'm going down to Aunt Jemima's myself in the
morning and will fix it so she can send the rest to me later on. I owe
her a small balance and must see her once more before I leave. Now go
home and get to bed; you have been losing too much sleep of late."
And yet he was not cast down, nor did his courage fail him. Long before
the darky's obedient figure had disappeared his natural buoyancy had
again asserted itself--or perhaps the philosophy which always sustains a
true gentleman in his hour of need had come to his assistance. He fully
realized what this last cowardly blow meant. One after another his
several belongings had vanished: his priceless family heirlooms; his
dogs; and now the home of his ancestors. He was even denied further
shelter within its walls. But there were no regrets; his conscience
still sustained him; he would live it all over again. In his
determination to keep to his standards he had tried to stop a freshet
with a shovelful of clay; that was all. It was a foolhardy attempt, no
doubt, but he would have been heartily ashamed of himself if he had not
made the effort. Wesley, of course, was not a very exciting place in
which to spend the winter, but it was better than being under
obligations to Talbot Rutter; and then he could doubtless earn enough at
the law to pay his board--at least he would try.
He had reached the end of the walk and had already caught the glow of
the overhead lantern in the hall of the Horn mansion lighting up the
varied costumes of the guests as Malachi swung back the front door,
revealing the girls in their pink and white nubias, the gallants in long
cloaks with scarlet linings, the older men in mufflers, and the mothers
and grandmothers in silk hoods. There was no question of Richard's
"Clar to goodness, Marse George, you is a sight for sore eyes," cried
Malachi, unhooking the clasp of the velvet collar and helping him off
with his cloak. "I ain't never seen ye looking spryer! Yes, sah, Marse
Richard's inside and he'll be mighty glad ye come. Yes--jedge--jes's
soon as I--Dat's it, mistis--I'll take dat shawl--No, sah, Marse
Richard ain't begun yit. Dis way, ladies," and so it had gone on since
the opening rat-a-tat-tat on the old brass knocker had announced the
arrival of the first guest.
Nor was there any question that everybody who could by any possibility
have availed themselves of Richard's invitation had put in an
appearance. Most of the men from the club known to these pages were
present, together with their wives and children--those who were old
enough to sit up late; and Nathan Gill, without his flute this time, but
with ears wide open--he was beginning to get gray, was Nathan, although
he wouldn't admit it; and Miss Virginia Clendenning in high waist and
voluminous skirts, fluffy side curls, and a new gold chain for her
eyeglasses--gold rims, too, of course--not to mention the Murdochs,
Stirlings, Gatchells, Captain Warfield and his daughter, Bowdoin, and
Purviance. They were all there; everybody, in fact, who could squeeze
inside the drawing-room; while those who couldn't filled the hall and
even the stairs--wherever Richard's voice could be heard.
St. George edged into the packed room, swept his glance over the throng,
and made his way through the laughing groups, greeting every one right
and left, old and young, as he moved--a kiss here on the upturned cheek
of some pretty girl whom he had carried in his arms when a baby; a
caressing pat of approbation on some young gallant's shoulder; a bend of
the head in respectful homage to those he knew but slightly--the
Baroness de Trobiand, Mrs. Cheston's friend, being one of them; a hearty
hand held out to the men who had been away for the summer--interrupted
now and then by some such sally from a young bride as--"Oh, you mean
Uncle George! No--I'm not going to love you any more! You promised you
would come to my party and you didn't, and my cotillon was all spoiled!"
or a--"Why, Temple, you dear man!-I'm so glad to see you! Don't forget
my dinner on Thursday. The Secretary is coming and I want you to sit
between him and Lord Atherton"--a sort of triumphal procession,
really--until he reached the end of the room and stood at Kate's side.
"Well, sweetheart!" he cried gayly, caressing her soft hand before his
fingers closed over it. Then his face hardened. "Ah, Mr. Willits! So
you, too, must come under the spell of Mr. Horn's voice," and without
waiting for a reply continued as if nothing had interrupted the joy of
his greeting. "You should sit down somewhere, my dear Kate--get as near
to Richard as you can, so you can watch his face--that's the best part
of it. And I should advise you, too, Mr. Willits, to miss none of his
words--it will be something you will remember all your life."
Kate looked up in his face with a satisfied smile. She was more than
glad that her Uncle George was so gracious to her escort, especially
to-night when he was to meet a good many people for the first time.
"I'll take the stool, then, dear Uncle George," she answered with a
merry laugh. "Go get it, please, Mr. Willits--the one under the sofa."
Then, with a toss of her head and a coquettish smile at St. George:
"What a gadabout you are; do you know I've been three times to see you,
and not a soul in your house and the front door wide open, and
everything done up in curl papers as if you were going to move away for
good and all and never coming back? And do you know that you haven't
been near me for a whole week? What do you mean by breaking my heart?
Thank you, Mr. Willits; put the stool right here, so I can look up into
Mr. Horn's eyes as Uncle George wants me to. I've known the time,
sir"--and she arched her brows at St. George--"when you would be
delighted to have me look my prettiest at you, but now before I am
halfway across the park you slip out of the basement door to avoid me
and--No!--no--no apologies--you are just tired of me!"
St. George laughed gayly in return, his palms flattened against each
other and held out in supplication; but he made no defence. He was
studying the couple, his mind on the bearing and manner of the young man
toward the woman he was pursuing so relentlessly. He saw that he had
completely regained his health, his clear eyes and ruddy skin and the
spring with which he moved denoting a man in perfect physical condition.
He discovered, too, that he was extremely well dressed and his costume
all that it should be--especially the plum-colored coat, which fitted
his shoulders to perfection; his linen of the whitest and finest, each
ruffle in flutes; the waist-coat embroidered in silk; the pumps of the
proper shape and the stockings all that could be desired--except
perhaps--and a grim smile crossed his face--that the silk scarf was a
shade out of key with the prevailing color of his make-up, particularly
his hair; but, then, that was to be expected of a man who had a slight
flaw in his ancestry. He wondered if she had noticed it and studied her
face for an answer. No! She had not noticed it. In fact there were very
many things she was overlooking in these last days of his wooing, he
thought to himself.
Suddenly he became occupied with Kate's beauty. He thought he had never
seen her so bewitching or in such good spirits. From his six feet and an
inch of vantage his eyes followed her sloping shoulders and tapering
arms and rested on her laughing, happy face--rose-colored in the soft
light of the candles--a film of lace looped at her elbows, her wonderful
hair caught in a coil at the back: not the prevailing fashion but one
most becoming to her. What had not this admixture of Scotch and Virginia
blood--this intermingling of robust independence with the gentle,
yielding feminine qualities of the Southern-born woman--done for this
Richard clapped his hands to attract attention, and advancing a step in
front of the big easy-chair which Malachi had just pulled out for him,
raised his fingers to command silence.
All eyes were instantly turned his way. Alert and magnetic, dignified
and charming, he stood in the full glow of the overhead chandelier, its
light falling upon his snuff-brown coat with its brass buttons,
pale-yellow waistcoat, and the fluff of white silk about his throat--
his grave, thoughtful face turned toward Kate as his nearest guest, his
glance sweeping the crowded room as if to be sure that everybody was at
ease; Malachi close behind awaiting his master's orders to further
adjust the chair and reading-lamp.
In the interim of the hush Kate had settled herself at Richard's feet on
the low stool that Willits had brought, the young man standing behind
her, the two making a picture that attracted general attention; some
wondering at her choice, while others were outspoken in their admiration
of the pair who seemed so wonderfully suited to each other.
"I have a rare story," Richard began "to read to you to-night, my good
friends, one you will never forget; one, indeed, which I am sure the
world at large will never forget. I shall read it as best I can, begging
your indulgence especially in rendering the dialect parts, which, if
badly done, often mar both the pathos and humor of the text." Here he
settled himself in his chair and picked up the small volume, Malachi,
now that his service was over, tiptoeing out to his place in the hall so
as to be ready for belated arrivals.
The room grew silent. Even Mrs. Cheston, who rarely ceased talking when
she had anything to say--and she generally did have something to
say--folded her hands in her lap and settled herself in her arm-chair,
her whole attention fastened on the reader. St. George, who had been
talking to her, moved up a chair so he could watch Kate's face the
Again Richard raised his voice:
"The time is of the present, and the scene is laid in one of those small
towns outside London. I shall read the whole story, omitting no word of
the text, for only then will you fully grasp the beauty of the author's
He began in low, clear tones reciting the contest between the hum of the
kettle and the chirp of the cricket; the music of his voice lending
added charm to the dual song. Then there followed in constantly
increasing intensity the happy home life of bewitching Dot Perrybingle
and her matter-of-fact husband, John the Carrier, with sleepy Tilly
Slowboy and the Baby to fill out the picture; the gradual unfolding of
the events that led up to the cruel marriage about to take place between
old Tackleton, the mean toy merchant, and sweet May Fielding, in love
with the sailor boy, Edward, lost at sea; the finding of the mysterious
deaf old man by John the Carrier, and the bringing him home in his cart
to Dot, who kept him all night because his friends had not called for
him; the rapid growth of a love affair between Dot and this old man, who
turned out to be a handsome young fellow; the heart-rending discovery by
John, through the spying of Tackleton, that Dot was untrue to him, she
meeting the man clandestinely and adjusting the disguise for him,
laughing all the while at the ruse she was helping him to play; the
grief of John when he realized the truth, he sitting all night alone by
the fire trying to make up his mind whether he would creep upstairs and
murder the villain who had stolen the heart of his little Dot, or
forgive her because he was so much older than she and it was, therefore,
natural for her to love a younger man; and finally the preparations at
the church, where Tackleton was to wed the beautiful May Fielding, who,
broken-hearted over the death of her sailor boy, had at last succumbed
to her mother's wishes and consented to join Tackleton at the altar.
For an hour Richard's well-modulated, full-toned voice rolled on, the
circle drawing closer and closer with their ears and hearts, as the
characters, one after another, became real and alive under the reader's
magical rendering. Dot Perrybingle's cheery, laughing accents;
Tackleton's sharp, rasping tones; John the Carrier's simple,
straightforward utterances and the soft, timid cadence of old Caleb, the
toy maker--(drowned Edward's father)--and his blind daughter Bertha
were recognized as soon as the reader voiced their speech. So thrilling
was the story of their several joys and sorrows that Kate, unconscious
of her surroundings, had slipped from her low stool, and with the weight
of her body resting on her knees, sat searching Richard's face, the
better to catch every word that fell from his lips.
To heighten the effect of what was the most dramatic part of the
story--the return of the wedding party to the Carrier's house, where
Dot, Caleb, and his blind daughter awaited them--Richard paused for a
moment as if to rest his voice--the room the while deathly still, the
loosening of a pent-up breath now and then showing how tense was the
emotion. Then he went on:
"Are those wheels upon the road, Bertha?", cried Dot. "You've a quick
ear, Bertha--And now you hear them stopping at the garden gate! And now
you hear a step outside the door--the same step, Bertha, is it not--And
Dot uttered a wild cry of uncontrollable delight, and running up to
Caleb put her hand upon his eyes, as a young man rushed into the room,
and, flinging away his hat into the air, came sweeping down upon them.
"Is it over?" cried Dot.
"Do you recollect the voice, dear Caleb? Did you ever hear the like of
it before?" cried Dot.
"If my boy Edward in the Golden South Americas was alive--" cried Caleb,
"He is alive!" shrieked Dot, removing her hands from his eyes and
clapping them in ecstasy; "look at him! See where he stands before you,
healthy and strong! Your own dear son! Your own dear, living, loving
All honor to the little creature for her transports! All honor to her
tears and laughter, when the three were locked in one another's arms!
All honor to the heartiness with which she met the sunburnt,
sailor-fellow, with his dark, streaming hair, halfway, and never turned
her rosy little mouth aside, but suffered him to kiss it freely, and to
press her to his bounding heart!
"Now tell him (John) all, Edward," sobbed Dot, "and don't spare me, for
nothing shall make me spare myself in his eyes ever again."
"I was the man," said Edward.
"And you could steal disguised into the home of your old friend,"
rejoined the carrier ...
"But I had a passion for her."
"I had," rejoined the other, "and she returned it--I heard twenty miles
away that she was false to me--I had no mind to reproach her but to see
Once more Richard's voice faltered, and again it rang clear, this time
in Dot's tones:
"But when she knew that Edward was alive, John, and had come back--and
when she--that's me, John--told him all--and how his sweetheart had
believed him to be dead, and how she had been over-persuaded by her
mother into a marriage--and when she--that's me again, John--told him
they were not married, though close upon it--and when he went nearly mad
for joy to hear it--then she--that's me again--said she would go and
sound his sweetheart--and she did--and they were married an hour
ago!--John, an hour ago! And here's the bride! And Gruff and Tackleton
may die a bachelor! And I'm a happy little woman, May, God bless you!"
Little woman, how she sobbed! John Perrybingle would have caught her in
his arms. But no; she wouldn't let him.
"Don't love me yet, please, John! Not for a long time yet! No--keep
there, please, John! When I laugh at you, as I sometimes do, John, and
call you clumsy, and a dear old goose, and names of that sort, it's
because I love you, John, so well. And when I speak of people being
middle-aged and steady, John, and pretend that we are a humdrum couple,
going on in a jog-trot sort of way, it's only because I'm such a silly
little thing, John, that I like, sometimes, to act a kind of play with
Baby, and all that, and make believe."
She saw that he was coming, and stopped him again. But she was very
nearly too late.
"No, don't love me for another minute or two, if you please, John! When
I first came home here I was half afraid I mighn't learn to love you
every bit as well as I hoped and prayed I might--being so very young,
John. But, dear John, every day and hour I love you more and more. And
if I could have loved you better than I do, the noble words I heard you
say this morning would have made me. But I can't. All the affection that
I had (it was a great deal, John) I gave you, as you well deserve, long,
long ago, and I have no more left to give. Now, my dear husband, take me
to your heart again! That's my home, John; and never, never think of
sending me to any other."
Richard Stopped and picking up a glass from the table moistened his
lips. The silence continued. Down more than one face the tears were
trickling, as they have trickled down millions of faces since. Kate had
crept imperceptibly nearer until her hands could have touched Richard's
knees. When Willits bent over her with a whispered comment a slight
shiver ran through her, but she neither answered nor turned her head. It
was only when Richard's voice finally ceased with the loud chirp of the
cricket at the close of the beloved story, and St. George had helped her
to her feet, that she seemed to awake to a sense of where she was. Even
then she looked about her in a dazed way, as if she feared some one had
been probing her heart--hanging back till the others had showered their
congratulations on the reader. Then leaning forward she placed her hands
in Richard's as if to steady herself, and with a sigh that seemed to
come from the depths of her nature bent her head and kissed him softly
on the cheek.
When the eggnog was being served and the guests were broken up into
knots and groups, all discussing the beauty of the reading, she suddenly
left Willits, who had followed her every move as if he had a prior right
to her person, and going up to St. George, led him out of the room to
one of the sofas in Richard's study, her lips quivering, the undried
tears still trembling on her eyelids. She did not release his hand as
they took their seats. Her fingers closed only the tighter, as if she
feared he would slip from her grasp.
"It was all so beautiful and so terrible, Uncle George," she moaned at
last--"and all so true. Such awful mistakes are made and then it is too
late. And nobody understands--nobody--nobody!" She paused, as if the
mere utterance pained her, and then to St. George's amazement asked
abruptly "Is there nothing yet from Harry?"
St. George looked at her keenly, wondering whether he had caught the
words aright. It had been months since Harry's name had crossed her
"No, nothing," he answered simply, trying to fathom her purpose and
completely at sea as to her real motive--"not for some months. Not since
he left the ship."
"And do you think he is in any danger?" She had released his hand, and
with her fingers resting on the sleeve of his coat sat looking into his
eyes as if to read their meaning.
"I don't know," he replied in a non-committal tone, still trying to
understand her purpose. "He meant then to go to the mountains, so he
wrote his mother. This may account for our not hearing. Why do you ask?
Have you had any news of him yourself?" he added, studying her face for
some solution of her strange attitude.
She sank back on the cushions. "No, he never writes to me." Then, as if
some new train of thought had forced its way into her mind, she
exclaimed suddenly: "What mountains?"
"Some range back of Rio, if I remember rightly. He said he--"
"Rio! But there is yellow fever at Rio!" she cried, with a start as she
sat erect in her seat, the pupils of her eyes grown to twice their size.
"Father lost half of one of his crews at Rio. He heard so to-day. It
would be dreadful for--for--his mother--if anything should happen to
Again St. George scrutinized her face, trying to probe deep down in her
heart. Had she, after all, some affection left for this boy lover--and
her future husband within hearing distance! No! This was not his
Kate--he understood it all now. It was the spell of the story that still
held her. Richard's voice had upset her, as it had done half the room.
"Yes, it is dreadful for everybody," he added. And then, in a
perfunctory manner, as being perhaps the best way to lead the
conversation into other channels, added: "And the suspense will be worse
now--for me at any rate--for I, too, am going away where letters reach
me but seldom."
Her hand closed convulsively over his.
"You going away! YOU!" she cried in a half-frightened tone. "Oh, please
don't, Uncle George! Oh!--I don't want you away from me! Why must you
go? Oh, no! Not now--not now!"
Her distress was so marked and her voice so pleading that he was about
to tell her the whole story, even to that of the shifts he had been put
to to get food for himself and Todd, when he caught sight of Willits
making his way through the throng to where they sat. His lips closed
tight. This man would always be a barrier between him and the girl he
had loved ever since her babyhood.
"Well, my dear Kate," he replied calmly, his eyes still on Willits, who
in approaching from the other room had been detained by a guest, "you
see I must go. Mr. Pawson wants me out of the way while he fixes up some
of my accounts, and so he suggested that I go back to Wesley for a few
months." He paused for an instant and, still keeping his eye on Willets,
added: "And now one thing more, my dear Kate, before your escort claims
you"--here his voice sank to a whisper--"promise me that if Harry writes
to you you will send him a kind, friendly letter in return. It can do
you no harm now, nor would Harry misunderstand it--your wedding is so
near. A letter would greatly cheer him in his loneliness."
"But he won't write!" she exclaimed with some bitterness--she had not
yet noticed Willits's approach--"he'll never write or speak to me
"But you will if he does?" pleaded St. George, the thought of his boy's
loneliness overmastering every other feeling.
"But he won't, I tell you--never--NEVER!"
"But if he should, my child? If--"
He stopped and raised his head. Willits stood gazing down at them,
searching St. George's face, as if to learn the meaning of the
conference: he knew that he did not favor his suit.
Kate looked up and her face flushed.
"Yes--in one minute, Mr. Willits," and without a word of any kind to St.
George she rose from the sofa and with her arm in Willits's left the
One winter evening some weeks after St. George's departure, Pawson sat
before a smouldering fire in Temple's front room, reading by the light
of a low lamp. He had rearranged the furniture--what was left of
it--both in this and the adjoining room, in the expectation that Fogbin
(Gorsuch's attorney) would move in, but so far he had not appeared, nor
had any word come from either Gorsuch or Colonel Rutter; nor had any one
either written or called upon him in regard to the overdue payment;
neither had any legal papers been served.
This prolonged and ominous silence disturbed him; so much so that he had
made it a point to be as much in his office as possible should his enemy
spring any unexpected trap.
It was, therefore, with some misgivings that he answered a quick,
impatient rap on his front door at the unusual hour of ten o'clock. If
it were Fogbin he had everything ready for his comfort; if it were any
one else he would meet him as best he could: no legal papers, at any
rate, could be served at that hour.
He swung back the door and a full-bearded, tightly-knit, well-built man
in rough clothes stepped in. In the dim light of the overhead lamp he
caught the flash of a pair of determined eyes set in a strong, forceful
"I want Mr. Temple," said the man, who had now removed his cap and stood
looking about him, as if making an inventory of the scanty furniture.
"He is not here," replied Pawson, rummaging the intruder's face for some
clew to his identity and purpose in calling at so late an hour.
"Are you sure?" There was doubt as well as marked surprise in the man's
tone. He evidently did not believe a word of the statement.
"Very sure," rejoined the attorney in a more positive tone, his eyes
still on the stranger. "He left town some weeks ago."
The intruder turned sharply, and with a brisk inquisitive movement
strode past him and pushed open the dining-room door. There he stood for
a moment, his eyes roaming over the meagre appointments of the
interior--the sideboard, bare of everything but a pitcher and some
tumblers--the old mahogany table littered with law books and papers--the
mantel stripped of its clock and candelabras. Then he stepped inside,
and without explanation of any kind, crossed the room, opened the door
of St. George's bedroom, and swept a comprehensive glance around the
despoiled interior. Once he stopped and peered into the gloom as if
expecting to find the object of his search concealed in its shadows.
"What has happened here?" he demanded in a voice which plainly showed
"Do you mean what has become of the rest of the furniture?" asked the
attorney in reply, gaining time to decide upon his course.
"Yes, who is responsible for this business?" he exclaimed angrily. "Has
it been done during his absence?"
Pawson hesitated. That the intruder was one of Gorsuch's men, and that
he had been sent in advance on an errand of investigation, was no longer
to be doubted. He, however, did not want to add any fuel to his
increasing heat, so he answered simply:
"Mr. Temple got caught in the Patapsco failure and it went pretty hard
with him, and so what he didn't actually need he sold."
The man gave a start, his features hardening; but whether of surprise or
dissatisfaction Pawson could not tell.
"And when it was all gone he went away--is that what you mean?" This
came in a softened tone.
"Yes--that seems to be the size of it. I suppose you come about--some"--
again he hesitated, not knowing exactly where the man stood--"about some
money due you?--Am I right?"
"No, I came to see Mr. Temple, and I must see him, and at once. How long
will he be gone?"
"All winter--perhaps longer." The attorney had begun to breathe again.
The situation might not be as serious as he had supposed. If he wanted
to see Mr. Temple himself, and no one else would do, there was still
chance of delay in the wiping out of the property.
Again the man's eyes roamed over the room, the bareness of which seemed
still to impress him. Then he asked simply: "Where will a letter reach
"I can't say exactly. I thought he had gone to Virginia--but he doesn't
answer any of my communications."
A look of suspicion crept into the intruder's eyes.
"You're not trying to deceive me, are you? It is very important that I
should see Mr. Temple, and at once." Then his manner altered. "You've
forgotten me, Mr. Pawson, but I have not forgotten you--my name is
Rutter. I lived here with Mr. Temple before I went to sea, three years
ago. I am just home--I left the ship an hour ago. I'll sit down if you
don't mind--I've still got my sea-legs on and am a little wobbly."
Pawson twisted his thin body and bent his neck, his eyes glued to the
speaker's face. There was not a trace of young Harry in the features.
"Well, you don't look like him," he replied incredulously--"he was
slender--not half your size, and--"
"Yes--I don't blame you. I am a good deal heavier; may be too a beard
makes some change in a man's face. But you don't really doubt me, do
you? Have you forgotten the bills that man Gadgem brought in?--the five
hundred dollars due Slater, and the horse Hampson sold me--the one I
shot?" and one of his old musical laughs rose to his lips.
Pawson sprang forward and seized the intruder's hand. He would recognize
that laugh among a thousand:
"Yes--I know you now! It's all come back to me," he cried joyously. "But
you gave me a terrible start, Mr. Rutter. I thought you had come to
clear up what was left. Oh!--but I AM glad you are back. Your uncle--you
always called him so, I remember--your uncle has had an awful hard time
of it--had to sell most of his things--terrible--terrible! And then,
too, he has grieved so over you--asking me, sometimes two or three times
a day, for letters from you--asking me questions and worrying over your
not coming and not answering. Oh, this is fine. Now may be we can save
the situation. You don't mind my shaking your hand again, do you? It's
so good to know there is somebody who can help. I have been all alone so
far except Gadgem--who has been a treasure. You remember him. Why didn't
you let Mr. Temple know you were coming?"
"I couldn't. I have been up in the mountains of Brazil, and coming home
went ashore--got wrecked. These clothes I bought from a sailor," and he
opened his rough jacket the wider.
"Yes--that's exactly what I heard him say--that's what he thought--that
is, that you were where you couldn't write, although I never heard him
say anything about shipwreck. I remember his telling Mr. Willits and
Miss Seymour that same thing the morning he left--that you couldn't
write. They came to see him off."
Harry edged his chair nearer the fireplace and propped one shoe on the
fender as if to dry it, although the night was fair. The mention of
Kate's and her suitor's names had sent the blood to his head and he was
using the subterfuge in the effort to regain control of himself before
Pawson should read all his secrets.
Shifting his body he rested his head on his hand, the light of the lamp
bringing into clearer relief his fresh, healthy skin, finely modelled
nose, and wide brow, the brown hair, clipped close to his head, still
holding its glossy sheen. For some seconds he did not speak: the low
song of the fire seemed to absorb him. Now and then Pawson, who was
watching him intently, heard him strangle a rebellious sigh, as if some
old memory were troubling him. His hand dropped and with a quick
movement he faced his companion again.
"I have been away a long time, Mr. Pawson," he said in a thoughtful
tone. "For three months--four now--I have had no letters from anybody.
It was my fault partly, but let that go. I want you to answer some
questions, and I want you to tell me the truth--all the truth. I
haven't any use for any other kind of man--do you understand? Is my
"And Alec? Is he all right?"
"And my uncle? Is he ruined?--so badly ruined that he is suffering? Tell
me." There was a peculiar pathos in his tone--so much so that Pawson,
who had been standing, settled into a chair beside him that his answers
might, if possible, be the more intimate and sympathetic.
"I'm afraid he is. The only hope is the postponement in some way of the
foreclosure of the mortgage on this house until times get better. It
wouldn't bring its face value to-day."
Harry caught his breath: "My God!--you don't tell me so! Poor Uncle
George--so fine and splendid--so good to everybody, and he has come to
this! And about this mortgage--who owns it?"
"Mr. Gorsuch, I understand, owns it now: he bought it of the Tyson
"You mean John Gorsuch--my father's man of business?"
"And was there nothing left?--no money coming in from anywhere?"
Pawson shook his head: "We collected all that some time ago--it came
from some old ground rents."
"And how has he lived since?" He wanted to hear it all; he could help
better if he knew how far down the ladder to begin.
"From hand to mouth, really." And then there followed his own and
Gadgem's efforts to keep the wolf from the door; the sale of the guns,
saddles, and furniture; the wrench over the Castullux cup--and what a
godsend it was that Kirk got such a good price for it--down to the
parting with the last article that either or both of them could sell or
pawn, including his four splendid setters.
As the sad story fell from the attorney's sympathetic lips Harry would
now and then cover his face with his hands in the effort to hide the
tears. He knew that the ruin was now complete. He knew, too, that he had
been the cause of it. Then his thoughts reverted to the old regime and
its comforts: those which his uncle had shared with him so generously.
"And what has become of my uncle's servants?" he asked--"his cook, Aunt
Jemima, and his body-servant, Todd?"
"I don't know what has become of the cook, but he took Todd with him."
Harry heaved a sigh of relief. If Todd was with him life would still be
made bearable for his uncle. Perhaps, after all, a winter with Tom
Coston was the wisest thing he could have done.
One other question now trembled on his lips. It was one he felt he had
no right to ask--not of Pawson--but it was his only opportunity, and he
must know the truth if he was to carry out the other plans he had in
view the day he dropped everything and came home without warning. At
last he asked casually:
"Do you know whether my father returned to Uncle George the money he
paid out for me?" Not that it was important--more as if he wanted to be
posted on current events.
"He tried, but Mr. Temple wouldn't take it. I had the matter in hand,
and know. This was some three years ago. He has never offered it
since--not to my knowledge."