Part 6 out of 7
Harry's face lightened. Some trace of decency was still left in the
Rutter blood! This money was in all honor owed by his father and might
still become an asset if he and his uncle should ever become reconciled.
"And can you tell me how they all are--out at Moorlands? Have you seen
my father lately?"
"Not your father, but I met your old servant, Alec, a few days ago."
"Alec!--dear old Alec! Tell me about him. And my mother--was she all
right? What did Alec say, and how did the old man look?"
"Yes; your mother was well. He said they were all well, except Colonel
Rutter, whose eyes troubled him. Alec seemed pretty much the same--may
be a little older."
Harry's mind began to wander. The room and his companion were forgotten.
He was again at Moorlands, the old negro following him about, his dear
mother sitting by his bed or kissing him goodnight.
For an instant he sat gazing into the smouldering. embers absorbed in
his thoughts. Then as if some new vista had opened out before him he
"You don't know what he was doing in town, do you? Was my mother with
"No, he was alone. He had brought some things in for Mr. Seymour--some
game or something, if I remember right. There's to be a wedding there
soon, so I hear. Yes, now I think of it, it WAS game--some partridges,
perhaps, your father had sent in. The old man asked about you--he always
does. And now, Mr. Rutter, tell me about yourself--have you done well?"
He didn't think he had, judging from his general appearance, but he
wanted to be sure in case St. George asked him.
Harry settled in his chair, his broad shoulders filling the back. The
news of Kate's wedding was what he had expected. Perhaps it was already
over. He was glad, however, the information had come to him unsought.
For an instant he made no reply to Pawson's inquiry, then he answered
slowly: "Yes, and no. I have made a little money--not much--but
some--not enough to pay Uncle George everything I owe him--not yet;
another time I shall do better. I was down with fever for a while and
that cost me a good deal of what I had saved. But I HAD to come back. I
met a man who told me Uncle George was ruined; that he had left this
house and that somebody had put a sign on it, I thought at first that
this must refer to you and your old arrangement in the basement, until I
questioned him closer. I knew how careless he had always been about his
money transactions, and was afraid some one had taken advantage of him.
That's why I was so upset when I came in a while ago: I thought they had
stolen his furniture as well. The ship Mohican--one of the old Barkeley
line--was sailing the day I reached the coast and I got aboard and
worked my passage home. I learned to do that on my way out. I learned to
wear a beard too. Not very becoming, is it?"--and a low, forced laugh
escaped his lips. "But shaving is not easy aboard ship or in the mines."
Pawson made no reply. He had been studying his guest the closer while he
was talking, his mind more on the man than on what he was saying. The
old Harry, which the dim light of the hall and room had hidden, was
slowly coming back to him:--the quick turn of the head; the way his lips
quivered when he laughed; the exquisitely modelled nose and brow, and
the way the hair grew on the temples. The tones of his voice, too, had
the old musical ring. It was the same madcap, daredevil boy mellowed and
strengthened by contact with the outside world. Next he scrutinized his
hands, their backs bronzed and roughened by contact with the weather,
and waited eagerly until some gesture opened the delicately turned
fingers, exposing the white palms, and felt relieved and glad when he
saw that they showed no rough usage. His glance rested on his
well-turned thighs, slender waist, and broad, strong shoulders and
arms--and then his eyes--so clear, and his skin so smooth and fresh--a
clean soul in a clean body! What joy would be Temple's when he got his
arms around this young fellow once more!
The wanderer reached for his cap and pushed back his chair. For an
instant he stood gazing into the smouldering coals as if he hated to
leave their warmth, his brow clouded, his shoulders drawn back. He had
all the information he wanted--all he had come in search of, although it
was not exactly what he wished or what he had expected:--his uncle
ruined and an exile; his father half blind and Kate's wedding expected
any week. That was enough at least for one night.
He stepped forward and grasped Pawson's hand, his well-knit, alert body
in contrast to the loosely jointed, long-legged, young attorney.
"I must thank you, Mr. Pawson," he said in his old outspoken, hearty way
"for your frankness, and I must also apologize for my apparent rudeness
when I first entered your door; but, as I told you, I was so astounded
and angry at what I saw that I hardly knew what I was doing. And now one
thing more before I take my leave: if Mr. Temple does not want his
present retreat known--and I gather from the mysterious way in which you
have spoken that he does not--let me tell you that I do not want mine
known either. Please do not say to any one that you have seen me, or
answer any questions--not for a time, at least. Good-night!"
With the closing of the front door behind him the exile came to a
standstill on the top step and looked about him. Across the park--beyond
the trees, close sheltered under the wide protecting roof, lay Kate. All
the weary miles out and back had this picture been fixed in his mind.
She was doubtless asleep as it was now past eleven o'clock: he would
know by the lights. But even the sight of the roof that sheltered her
would, in itself, be a comfort. It had been many long years since he had
breathed the same air with her; slept under the same stars; walked where
her feet had trodden. For some seconds he stood undecided. Should he
return to the Sailors' House where he had left his few belongings and
banish all thoughts of her from his mind now that his worst fears had
been confirmed? or should he yield to the strain on his heart-strings?
If she were asleep the whole house would be dark; if she were at some
neighbor's and Mammy Henny was sitting up for her, the windows in the
bedroom would be dark and the hall lamp still burning--he had watched
it so often before and knew the signs.
Drawing the collar of his rough peajacket close about his throat and
crowding his cap to his ears, he descended the steps and with one of his
quick, decided movements plunged into the park, now silent and deserted.
As he neared the Seymour house he became conscious, from the glow of
lights gleaming between the leafless branches of the trees, that
something out of the common was going on inside. The house was ablaze
from the basement to the roof, with every window-shade illumined.
Outside the steps, and as far out as the curb, lounged groups of
attendants, while in the side street, sheltered by the ghostly trees,
there could be made out the wheels and hoods of carryalls and the glint
of harness. Now and then the door would open and a bevy of muffled
figures--the men in cloaks, the girls in nubias wound about their heads
and shoulders--would pass out. The Seymours were evidently giving a
ball, or was it--and the blood left his face and little chills ran loose
through his hair--was it Kate's wedding night? Pawson had said that a
marriage would soon take place, and in the immediate future. It was
either this or an important function of some kind, and on a much more
lavish scale than had been old Prim's custom in the days when he knew
him. Then the contents of Alec's basket rose in his mind. That was why
his father had sent the pheasants! Perhaps both he and his mother were
Sick at heart he turned on his heel and with quickened pace retraced his
steps. He would not be a spy, and he could not he an eavesdropper. As
the thought forced itself on his mind, the fear that he might meet some
one whom he would know, or who would know him, overtook him. So great
was his anxiety that it was only when he had left the park far behind
him on his way back to the Sailors' House, that he regained his
composure. He was prepared to face the truth, and all of it whatever it
held in store for him; but he must first confront his father and learn
just how he stood with him; then he would see his mother and Alec, and
then he would find St. George: Kate must come last.
The news that his father had offered to pay his debts--although he did
not intend that that should relieve him in any way of his own
responsibility to his uncle--kindled fresh hopes in his heart and
buoyed him up. Now that his father had tried repeatedly to repair the
wrong he had done it might only be necessary to throw himself on his
knees before him and be taken back into his heart and arms. To see him,
then, was his first duty and this he would begin to carry out in the
morning. As to his meeting his mother and Alec--should he fail with his
father--that must be undertaken with more care, for he could not place
himself in the position of sneaking home and using the joy his return
would bring them as a means to soften his father's heart. Yes, he would
find his father first, then his mother and Alec. If his father received
him the others would follow. If he was repulsed, he must seek out some
This over he would find St. George. He knew exactly where his uncle was,
although he had not said so to Pawson. He was not at Coston's, nor
anywhere in the vicinity of Wesley, but at Craddock, on the bay--a
small country house some miles distant, where he and his dogs had often
spent days and weeks during the ducking season. St. George had settled
down there to rest and get away from his troubles; that was why he had
not answered Pawson's letters.
Striding along with his alert, springing step, he swung through the
deserted and unguarded Marsh Market, picked his way between the piles of
produce and market carts, and plunging down a narrow street leading to
the wharf, halted before a door over which swung a lantern burning a
green light. Here he entered.
Although it was now near midnight, there were still eight or ten
seafaring men in the room--several of them members of his own crew
aboard the Mohican. Two were playing checkers, the others crowded about
a square table where a game of cards was in progress; wavy lines of
tobacco smoke floated beneath the dingy ceiling; at one end was a small
bar where a man in a woollen shirt was filling some short, thick
tumblers from an earthen jug. It was the ordinary sailors' retreat where
the men put up before, between, and after their voyages.
One of them at the card-table looked up from his game as Harry entered,
and called out:
"Man been lookin' for you--comin' back, he says. My trick! Hearts,
wasn't it?" (this to his companions).
"Do I know him?" asked Harry with a slight start, pausing on his way to
his bedroom upstairs, where he had left his bag of clothes two hours
before. Could he have been recognized and shadowed?
"No--don't think so; he's a street vendor. Got some China silks to
sell--carries his pack on his back and looks as if he'd took up a extry
'ole in his belt. Hungry, I wouldn't wonder. Wanted to h'ist 'em fur a
glass o' grog an' a night's lodgin', but Cap wouldn't let him--said
you'd be back and might help him. Wasn't that it, Cap?"--this to the
landlord, who nodded in reply.
"How could _I_ help him?" asked Harry, selecting a tallow dip from a row
on a shelf, but in a tone that implied his own doubt in the query, as
well as his relief, now that the man was really a stranger.
"Well, this is your port, so I 'ear. Some o' them high-flyers up 'round
the park might lend a hand, may be, if you'd tip 'em a wink, or some o'
their women folks might take a shine to 'em."
"Looked hungry, did you say?" Harry asked, lighting the dip at an oil
lamp that swung near the bar.
"Yes--holler's a drum--see straight through him; tired too--beat out.
You'd think so if you see him. My play--clubs."
Harry turned to the landlord: "If this man comes in again give him food
and lodging," and he handed him a bank bill. "If he is here in the
morning let me see him. I'm going to bed now. Good-night, men!"
Should I lapse into the easy-flowing style of the chroniclers of the
period of which I write--(and how often has the scribe wished he
could)--this chapter would open with the announcement that on this
particularly bleak, wintry afternoon a gentleman in the equestrian
costume of the day, and mounted upon a well-groomed, high-spirited white
horse, might have been seen galloping rapidly up a country lane leading
to an old-fashioned manor house.
Such, however, would not cover the facts. While the afternoon was
certainly wintry, and while the rider was unquestionably a gentleman, he
was by no manner of means attired in velveteen coat and russet-leather
boots with silver spurs, his saddle-bags strapped on behind, but in a
rough and badly worn sailor's suit, his free hand grasping a bundle
carried loose on his pommel. As to the horse neither the immortal James
or any of his school could truthfully picture this animal as either
white or high-spirited. He might, it is true, have been born white and
would in all probability have stayed white but for the many omissions
and commissions of his earlier livery stable training--traces of which
could still be found in his scraped sides and gnawed mane and tail; he
might also have once had a certain commendable spirit had not the ups
and downs of road life--and they were pretty steep outside Kennedy
Square--taken it out of him.
It is, however, when I come to the combination of horse and rider that I
can with entire safety lapse into the flow of the old chroniclers. For
whatever Harry had forgotten in his many experiences since he last threw
his leg over Spitfire, horsemanship was not one of them. He still rode
like a Cherokee and still sat his mount like a prince.
He had had an anxious and busy morning. With the first streak of dawn he
had written a long letter to his Uncle George, in which he told him of
his arrival; of his heart-felt sorrow at what Pawson had imparted and of
his leaving immediately, first for Wesley and then Craddock, as soon as
he found out how the land lay at Moorlands. This epistle he was careful
to enclose in another envelope, which he directed to Justice Coston,
with instructions to forward it with "the least possible delay" to Mr.
Temple, who was doubtless at Craddock, "and who was imperatively needed
at home in connection with some matters which required his immediate
personal attention," and which enclosure, it is just as well to state,
the honorable justice placed inside the mantel clock, that being the
safest place for such precious missives, at least until the right owner
This duly mailed, he had returned to the Sailors' House, knocked at the
door of the upstairs room in which, through his generosity, the street
vendor lay sleeping, and after waking him up and becoming assured that
the man was in real distress, had bought at twice their value the China
silks which had caused the disheartened pedler so many weary hours of
tramping. These he had tucked under his arm and carried away.
The act was not alone due to his charitable instincts. A much more
selfish motive influenced him. Indeed the thought came to him in a way
that had determined him to attend to his mail at early dawn and return
at sunrise lest the owner should disappear and take the bundle with him.
The silks were the very things he needed to help him solve one of his
greatest difficulties. He would try, as the sailor-pedler had done, to
sell them in the neighborhood of Moorlands--(a common practice in those
days)--and in this way might gather up the information of which he was
in search. Pawson had not known him--perhaps the others would not: he
might even offer the silks to his father without being detected.
With this plan clearly defined in his mind, he had walked into a livery
stable near the market, but a short distance from his lodgings, with the
silks in a bundle and after looking the stock over had picked out this
unprepossessing beast as best able to take him to Moorlands and back
between sunrise and dark.
As he rode on, leaving the scattered buildings of the town far behind,
mounting the hills and then striking the turnpike--every rod of which he
could have found in the dark--his thoughts, like road-swallows, skimmed
each mile he covered. Here was where he had stopped with Kate when her
stirrup broke; near the branches of that oak close to the ditch marking
the triangle of cross-roads he had saved his own and Spitfire's neck by
a clear jump that had been the talk of the neighborhood for days. On the
crest of this hill--the one he was then ascending--his father always
tightened up the brakes on his four-in-hand, and on the slope beyond
invariably braced himself in his seat, swung his whip, and the flattened
team swept on and down, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake that blurred
the road for minutes thereafter.
When noon came he dismounted at a farmer's out-building beside the
road--he would not trust the public-houses--fed and watered his horse,
rubbed him down himself, and after an hour's rest pushed on toward the
fork in the road to Moorlands. Beyond this was a cross-path that led to
the outbarns and farm stables--a path bordered by thick bushes and which
skirted a fence in the rear of the manor house itself. Here he intended
to tie his steed and there he would mount him again should his mission
The dull winter sky had already heralded the dusk--it was near four
o'clock in the afternoon--when he passed some hayricks where a group of
negroes were at work. One or two raised their heads and then, as if
reassured, resumed their tasks. This encouraged him to push on the
nearer--he had evidently been mistaken for one of the many tradespeople
seeking his father's overseer, either to sell tools or buy produce.
Tying the horse close to the fence--so close that it could not be seen
from the house--he threw the bundle of silks over his shoulder and
struck out for the small office in the rear. Here the business of the
estate was transacted, and here were almost always to be found either
the overseer or one of his assistants--both of them white. These men
were often changed, and his chance, therefore, of meeting a stranger was
all the more likely.
As he approached the low sill of the door which was level with the
ground, and which now stood wide open, he caught the glow of a fire and
could make out the figure of a man seated at a desk bending over a mass
of papers. The man pushed back a green shade which had protected his
eyes from the glare of a lamp and peered out at him.
It was his father!
The discovery was so unexpected and had come with such suddenness--it
was rarely in these later days that the colonel was to be found here in
the afternoon: he was either riding or receiving visitors--that Harry's
first thought was to shrink back out of sight, or, if discovered, to
make some excuse for his intrusion and retire. Then his mind changed and
he stepped boldly in. This was what he had come for and this was what he
"I have some China silks to sell," he said in his natural tone of voice,
turning his head so that while his goods were in sight his face would be
"Silks! I don't want any silks! Who allowed you to pass in here? Alec!"
He pushed back his chair and moved to the door. "Alec! Where the devil
is Alec! He's always where I don't want him!"
"I saw no one to ask, sir," Harry replied mechanically. His father's
appearance had sent a chill through him; he would hardly have known him
had he met him on the street. Not only did he look ten years older, but
the injury to his sight caused him to glance sideways at any one he
addressed, completely destroying the old fearless look in his eyes.
"You never waited to ask! You walk into my private office unannounced
and--" here he turned the lamp to see the better. "You're a sailor,
aren't you?" he added fiercely--a closer view of the intruder only
heightening his wrath.
"Yes, sir--I'm a sailor," replied Harry simply, his voice dying in his
throat as he summed up the changes that the years had wrought in the
colonel's once handsome, determined face--thinner, more shrunken, his
mustache and the short temple-whiskers almost white.
For an instant his father crumpled a wisp of paper he was holding
between his fingers and thumb; and then demanded sharply, but with a
tone of curiosity, as if willing the intruder should tarry a moment
while he gathered the information:
"How long have you been a sailor?"
"I am just in from my last voyage." He still kept in the shadow although
he saw his father had so far failed to recognize him. The silks had been
laid on a chair beside him.
"That's not what I asked you. How long have you been a sailor?" He was
scanning his face now as best he could, shifting the green shade that he
might see the better.
"I went to sea three years ago."
"Three years, eh? Where did you go?"
The tone of curiosity had increased. Perhaps the next question would
lead up to some basis on which he could either declare himself or lay
the foundation of a declaration to be made the next day--after he had
seen his mother and Alec.
"To South America. Para was my first port," he answered simply,
wondering why he wanted to know.
"That's not far from Rio?" He was still looking sideways at him, but
there was no wavering in his gaze.
"No, not far--Rio was our next stopping place. We had a hard voyage and
put in to--"
"Do you know a young man by the name of Rutter--slim man with dark hair
and eyes?" interrupted his father in an angry tone.
Harry started forward, his heart in his mouth, his hands upraised, his
fingers opening. It was all he could do to restrain himself. "Don't you
know me, father?" was trembling on his lips. Then something in the sound
of the colonel's voice choked his utterance. Not now, he thought,
mastering his emotion--a moment more and he would tell him.
"I have heard of him, sir," he answered when he recovered his speech,
straining his ears to catch the next word.
"Heard of him, have you? So has everybody else heard of him--a worthless
scoundrel who broke his mother's heart; a man who disgraced his
family--a gentleman turned brigand--a renegade who has gone back on his
blood! Tell him so if you see him! Tell him I said so; I'm his father,
and know! No--I don't want your silks--don't want anything that has to
do with sailormen. I am busy--please go away. Don't stop to bundle them
up--do that outside," and he turned his back and readjusted the shade
over his eyes.
Harry's heart sank, and a cold faintness stole through his frame. He was
not angry nor indignant. He was stunned.
Without a word in reply he gathered up the silks from the chair, tucked
them under his arm, and replacing his cap stepped outside into the fast
approaching twilight. Whatever the morrow might bring forth, nothing
more could be done to-day. To have thrown himself at his father's feet
would only have resulted in his being driven from the grounds by the
overseer, with the servants looking on--a humiliation he could not
As he stood rolling the fabrics into a smaller compass, a gray-haired
negro in the livery of a house servant passed hurriedly and entered the
door of the office. Instantly his father's voice rang out:
"Where the devil have you been, Alec? How many times must I tell you to
look after me oftener. Don't you know I'm half blind and--No--I don't
want any more wood--I want these vagabonds kept off my grounds. Send Mr.
Grant to me at once, and don't you lose sight of that man until you have
seen him to the main road. He says he is a sailor--and I've had enough
of sailors, and so has everybody else about here."
The negro bowed and backed out of the room. No answer of any kind was
best when the colonel was in one of his "tantrums."
"I reckon I hab to ask ye, sah, to quit de place--de colonel don't 'low
nobody to--" he said politely.
Harry turned his face aside and started for the fence. His first thought
was to drop his bundle and throw his arms around Alec's neck; then he
realized that this would be worse than his declaring himself to his
father--he could then be accused of attempting deception by the trick of
a disguise. So he hurried on to where his horse was tied--his back to
Alec, the bundle shifted to his left shoulder that he might hide his
face the better until he was out of sight of the office, the old man
stumbling on, calling after him:
"No, dat ain't de way. Yer gotter go down de main road; here, man--don't
I tell yer dat ain't de way."
Harry had now gained the fence and had already begun to loosen the reins
when Alec, out of breath and highly indignant over the refusal to carry
out his warning, reached his side.
"You better come right back f'om whar ye started," the old negro puffed;
"ye can't go dat way or dey'll set de dogs on ye." Here his eyes rested
on the reins and forelock. "What! you got a horse an' you--"
Harry turned and laid his hand on the old servant's shoulder. He could
hardly control his voice:
"Don't you know me, Alec? I'm Harry!"
The old man bent down, peered into Harry's eyes, and with a quick spring
forward grabbed him by both shoulders.
"You my Marse Harry!--you!" His breath was gone now, his whole body in a
tremble, his eyes bulging from his head.
"Yes, Alec, Harry! It's only the beard. Look at me! I didn't want my
father to see us--that's why I kept on."
The old servant threw up his hands and caught his young master around
the neck. For some seconds he could not speak.
"And de colonel druv ye out!" he gasped. "Oh, my Gawd! my Gawd! And ye
ain't daid, and ye come back home ag'in." He was sobbing now, his head
on the exile's shoulder, Harry's arms about him--patting his bent back.
"But yer gotter go back, Marse Harry," he moaned. "He ain't 'sponsible
these days. He didn't know ye! Come 'long, son; come back wid ol' Alec;
please come, Marse Harry. Oh, Gawd! ye GOTTER come!"
"No, I'll go home to-night--another day I'll--"
"Ye ain't got no home but dis, I tell ye! Go tell him who ye is--lemme
run tell him. I won't be a minute. Oh! Marse Harry, I can't let ye go! I
been dat mizzable widout ye. I ain't neber got over lovin' ye!"
Here a voice from near the office broke out. In the dusk the two could
just make out the form of the colonel, who was evidently calling to some
of his people. He was bareheaded and without his shade.
"I've sent Alec to see him safe off the grounds. You go yourself, Mr.
Grant, and follow him into the highroad; remember that after this I hold
you responsible for these prowlers."
The two had paused while the colonel was speaking, Harry, gathering the
reins in his hand, ready to vault into the saddle, and Alec, holding on
to his coat-sleeves hoping still to detain him.
"I haven't a minute more--quick, Alec, tell me how my mother is."
"She's middlin' po'ly, same's ever; got great rings under her eyes and
her heart's dat heaby makes abody cry ter look at 'er. But she ain't
sick, jes' griebin' herse'f to death. Ain't yer gwineter stop and see
'er? May be I kin git ye in de back way."
"Not now--not here. Bring her to Uncle George's house to-morrow about
noon, and I will be there. Tell her how I look, but don't tell her what
my father has done. And now tell me about Miss Kate--how long since you
saw her? Is she married?"
Again the colonel's voice was heard; this time much nearer--within
hailing distance. He and the overseer were evidently approaching the
fence; some of the negroes had doubtless apprised them of the course of
Alec turned quickly to face his master, and Harry, realizing that his
last moment had come, swung himself into the saddle. If Alec made any
reply to his question it was lost in the clatter of hoofs as both horse
and man swept down the by-path. In another moment they had gained the
main road, the rider never breaking rein until he had reached the
farm-house where he had fed and watered his horse some hours before.
Thirty-odd miles out and back was not a long ride for a hired horse in
these days over a good turnpike with plenty of time for resting--and he
had as many breathing spells as gallops, for Harry's moods really
directed his gait. Once in a while he would give him his head, the reins
lying loose, the horse picking his way in a walk. Then the bitterness of
his father's words and how undeserved they were, and how the house of
cards his hopes had built up had come tumbling down about his ears at
the first point of contact would rush over him, and he would dig his
heels into the horse's flanks and send him at full gallop through the
night along the pale ribbon of a road barely discernible in the ghostly
dark. When, however, Alec's sobs smote his ear, or the white face of his
mother confronted him, the animal would gradually slacken his pace and
drop into a walk.
Dominated by these emotions certain fixed resolutions at last took
possession of him: He would see his mother at once, no matter at what
cost--even if he defied his father--and then he would find his uncle.
Whether he would board the next vessel heaving port and return to his
work in the mountains, or whether he would bring his uncle back from
Craddock and the two, with his own vigorous youth and new experience of
the world, fight it out together as they had once done before, depended
on what St. George advised. Now that Kate's marriage was practically
decided upon, one sorrow--and his greatest--was settled forever. Any
others that were in store for him he would meet as they came.
With his mind still intent on these plans he rode at last into the open
door of the small courtyard of the livery stable and drew rein under a
swinging lantern. It was past ten at night, and the place was deserted,
except by a young negro who advanced to take his horse. Tossing the
bridle aside he slipped to the ground.
"He's wet," Harry said, "but he's all right. Let him cool off gradually,
and don't give him any water until he gets dry. I'll come in to-morrow
and pay your people what I owe them."
The negro curry-combed his fingers down the horse's flanks as if to
assure himself of his condition, and in the movement brought his face
under the glare of the overhead light.
Harry grabbed him by the shoulder and swung him round.
"Todd--you rascal! What are you doing here? Why are you not down on the
Eastern Shore?" His astonishment was so intense that for an instant he
could not realize he had the right man.
The negro drew back. He was no runaway slave, and he didn't intend to be
taken for one--certainly not by a man as rough and suspicious looking as
the one before him.
"How you know my name, man?" He was nervous and scared half out of his
wits. More than one negro had been shanghaied in that way and smuggled
off to sea.
"Know you! I'd know you among a thousand. Have you, too, deserted your
master?" He still held him firmly by the collar of his coat, his voice
rising with his wrath. "Why have you left him? Answer me."
For an instant the negro hesitated, leaned forward, and then with a
burst of joy end out:
"You ain't!--Fo' Gawd it is! Dat beard on ye, Marse Harry, done fool
me--but you is him fo' sho. Gor-a-mighty! ain't I glad ye ain't daid.
Marse George say on'y yisterday you was either daid or sick dat ye
didn't write an'--"
"Said yesterday! Why, is he at home?"
"HOME! Lemme throw a blanket over dis hoss and tie him tell we come
back. Oh, we had a heap o' mis'ry since ye went away--a heap o' trouble.
Nothin' but trouble! You come 'long wid me--'tain't far; des around de
corner. I'll show ye sompin' make ye creep all over. An' it ain't
gettin' no better--gettin' wuss. Dis way, Manse Harry. You been 'cross
de big water, ain't ye? Dat's what I heared. Aunt Jemima been mighty
good, but we can't go on dis way much longer."
Still talking, forging ahead in the darkness through the narrow street
choked with horseless drays, Todd swung into a dingy yard, mounted a
flight of rickety wooden steps, and halted at an unpainted door. Turning
the knob softly he beckoned silently to Harry, and the two stepped into
a small room lighted by a low lamp placed on the hearth, its rays
falling on a cot bed and a few chairs. Beside a cheap pine table sat
Aunt Jemima, rocking noiselessly. The old woman raised her hand in
warning and put her fingers to her lips.
On the bed, with the coverlet drawn close under his chin, lay his Uncle
Harry looked about the room in a bewildered way and then tiptoed to St.
George's bed. It had been a day of surprises, but this last had
completely upset him. St. George dependent on the charity of his old
cook and without other attendant than Todd! Why had he been deserted by
everybody who loved him? Why was he not at Wesley or Craddock? Why
should he be here of all places in the world?
All these thoughts surged through his mind as he stood above the patient
and watched his slow, labored breathing. That he had been ill for some
time was evident in his emaciated face and the deep hollows into which
his closed eyes were sunken.
Aunt Jemima rose and handed the intruder her chair. He sat down
noiselessly beside him. Once his uncle coughed, and in the effort drew
the coverlet close about his throat, his eyes still shut; but whether
from weakness or drowsiness, Harry could not tell. Presently he shifted
his body, and moving his head on the pillow, called softly:
The old woman bent over him.
"Yes, Marse George."
"Give me a little milk--my throat troubles me."
Harry drew back into the shadow cast over one end of the cot and rear
wall by the low lamp on the hearth. Whether to slip his hand gently over
his uncle's and declare himself, or whether to wait until he dozed again
and return in the morning, when he would be less tired and could better
withstand the shock of the meeting, was the question which disturbed
him. And yet he could not leave until he satisfied himself of just what
ought to be done. If he left him at all it must be for help of some
kind. He leaned over and whispered in Jemima's ear:
"Has he had a doctor?"
Jemima shook her head. "He wouldn't hab none; he ain't been clean beat
out till day befo' yisterday, an' den I got skeered an'--" She stopped,
leaned closer, clapped her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming,
and staggered back to her chair.
St. George raised his head from the pillow and stared into the shadows.
"Who is talking? I heard somebody speak? Jemima--you haven't disobeyed
me, have you?"
Harry stepped noiselessly to the bedside and laid his fingers on the
sick man's wrist:
"Uncle George," he said gently.
Temple lowered his head as if to focus his gaze.
"Yes, there is some one!" he cried in a stronger voice. "Who are you,
sir?--not a doctor, are you? I didn't send for you!--I don't want any
doctor, I told my servant so. Jemima!--Todd!--why do you--"
Harry tightened his grasp on the emaciated wrist. "No, Uncle George,
it's Harry! I'm just back."
"What did he say, Todd? Harry!--Harry! Did he say he was Harry, or am I
losing my mind?"
In his eagerness to understand he lifted himself to a sitting posture,
his eyes wandering uneasily over the speaker's body, resting on his
head--on his shoulders, arms, and hands--as if trying to fix his mind on
something which constantly baffled him.
Harry continued to pat his wrist soothingly.
"Yes, it's Harry, Uncle George," he answered. "But don't talk--lie down.
I'm all right--I got in yesterday and have been looking for you
everywhere. Pawson told me you were at Wesley. I found Todd a few
minutes ago by the merest accident, and he brought me here. No, you must
lie down--let me help--rest yourself on me--so." He was as tender with
him as if he had been his own mother.
The sick man shook himself free--he was stronger than Harry thought. He
was convinced now that there was some trick being played upon him--one
Jemima in her anxiety had devised.
"How dare you, sir, lie to me like that! Who asked you to come here?
Todd--send this fellow from the room!"
Harry drew back out of his uncle's vision and carefully watched the
invalid. St. George's mind was evidently unhinged and it would be better
not to thwart him.
Todd crept up. He had seen his master like this once before and had had
all he could do to keep him in bed.
"Dat ain't no doctor, Marse George," he pleaded, his voice trembling.
"Dat's Marse Harry come back agin alive. It's de hair on his face make
him look dat way; dat fool me too. It's Marse Harry, fo' sho'--I fotch
him yere myse'f. He's jes' come from de big ship."
St. George twisted his head, looked long and earnestly into Harry's
face, and with a sudden cry of joy stretched out his hand and motioned
him nearer. Harry sank to his knees beside the bed. St. George curved
one arm about his neck, drew him tightly to his breast as he would a
woman, and fell back upon the pillow with Harry's head next his own.
There the two lay still, St. George's eyes half closed, thick sobs
stifling his utterance, the tears streaming down his pale cheeks; his
thin white fingers caressing the brown hair of the boy he loved. At
last, with a heavy, indrawn sigh, not of grief, but of joy, he muttered:
"It's true, isn't it, my son?"
Harry hugged him the tighter in answer.
"And you are home for good?"
Again the pressure. "Yes, but don't talk, you must go to sleep. I won't
leave you." His own tears were choking him now.
Then, after a long pause, releasing his grasp: "I did not know how weak
I was. ... Maybe I had better not talk. ... Don't stay. Come to-morrow
and tell me about it. ... There is no bed for you here ... I am sorry
... but you must go away--you couldn't be comfortable. ... Todd--"
The darky started forward--both he and Aunt Jemima were crying:
"Yes, Marse George."
"Take the lamp and light Mr. Rutter downstairs. To-morrow--to-morrow,
Harry. ... My God--think of it!--Harry home! Harry home! My Harry
home!" and he turned his face to the wall.
On the way back--first to the stable, where he found that the horse had
been properly cared for and his bill ready and then to his
lodgings,--Todd told him the story of what had happened: At first his
master had firmly intended going to the Eastern Shore--and for a long
stay--for he had ordered his own and Todd's trunks packed with
everything they both owned in the way of clothes. On the next day,
however--the day before the boat left--Mr. Temple had made a visit to
Jemima to bid her good-by, where he learned that her white lodger had
decamped between suns, leaving two months board unpaid. In the effort to
find this man, or compel his employer to pay his bill, out of some wages
still due him--in both of which he failed--his master had missed the
boat and they were obliged to wait another week. During this interim,
not wishing to return to Pawson, and being as he said very comfortable
where he was with his two servants to wait upon him, and the place as
clean as a pin--his master had moved his own and Todd's trunk from the
steamboat warehouse where they had been stored and had had them brought
to Jemima's. Two days later--whether from exposure in tramping the
streets in his efforts to collect the old woman's bill, or whether the
change of lodgings had affected him--he was taken down with a chill and
had been in bed ever since. With this situation staring both Jemima and
himself in the face--for neither she nor Mr. Temple had much money
left--Todd had appealed to Gadgem--(he being the only man in his
experience who could always produce a roll of bills when everybody else
failed)--who took him to the stableman whose accounts he collected
--and who had once bought one of St. George's saddles--and who then and
there hired Todd as night attendant. His wages, added to what Jemima
could earn over her tubs, had kept the three alive. All this had taken
place four weeks or more ago.
None of all this, he assured Harry, had he told Gadgem or anybody else,
his master's positive directions being to keep his abode and his
condition a secret from everybody. All the collector knew was that Mr.
Temple being too poor to take Todd with him, had left him behind to
shift for himself until he could send for him. All the neighborhood
knew, to quote Todd's own hilarious chuckle, was that "Miss Jemima
Johnsing had two mo' boa'ders; one a sick man dat had los' his job an'
de udder a yaller nigger who sot up nights watchin' de hosses eat dere
Since that time his master had had various ups and downs, but although
he was still weak he was very much stronger than he had been any time
since he had taken to his bed. Only once had he been delirious; then he
talked ramblingly about Miss Kate and Marse Harry. This had so scared
Aunt Jemima that she had determined to go to Mammy Henny and have her
tell Miss Kate, so he could get a doctor--something he had positively
forbidden her to do, but he grew so much better the next day that she
had given it up; since that time his mind had not again given way. All
he wanted now, so Todd concluded, was a good soup and "a drap o' sumpin
warmin'--an' he'd pull thu'. But dere warn't no use tryin' ter git him
to take it 'cause all he would eat was taters an' corn pone an'
milk--an' sich like, 'cause he said dere warn't money 'nough fer de
three--" whereupon Todd turned his head away and caught his breath, and
then tried to pass it off as an unbidden choke--none of which
subterfuges deceived Harry in the least.
When the two arrived off the dimly burning lantern--it was past ten
o'clock--and pushed in the door of the Sailors' House, Todd received
another shock--one that sent his eyes bulging from his head. That Marse
Harry Rutter, who was always a law unto himself, should grow a beard and
wear rough clothes, was to be expected--"Dem Rutters was allus dat
way--do jes's dey mineter--" but that the most elegant young man of his
day "ob de fustest quality," should take up his quarters in a low
sailors' retreat, and be looked upon by the men gathered under the
swinging lamp around a card table--(some of whom greeted Harry
familiarly)--as one of their own kind, completely staggered him.
The pedler was particularly gracious--so much so that when he learned
that Harry was leaving for good, and had come to get his belongings--he
jumped up and insisted on helping--at which Harry laughed and assented,
and as a further mark of his appreciation presented him with the now
useless silks, in addition to the money he gave him--an act of
generosity which formed the sole topic of conversation in the resort for
Board and lodging paid, the procession took up its return march: Harry
in front, Todd, still dazed and still at sea as to the meaning of it
all, following behind; the pedler between with Harry's heavy coat,
blankets, etc.--all purchased since his shipwreck--the party threading
the choked-up street until they reached the dingy yard, where the pedler
dumped his pack and withdrew, while the darky stowed his load in the
basement. This done, the two tiptoed once more up the stairs to where
Aunt Jemima awaited them, St. George having fallen asleep.
Beckoning the old woman away from the bedroom door and into the far
corner of the small hall, Harry unfolded to her as much of his plans for
the next day as he thought she ought to know. Early in the morning
--before his uncle was astir--he would betake himself to Kennedy Square;
ascertain from Pawson whether his uncle's rooms were still unoccupied,
and if such were the case--and St. George be unable to walk--would pick
him up bodily, wrap him in blankets, carry him in his own arms
downstairs, place him in a carriage, and drive him to his former home
where he would again pick him up and lay him in his own bed: This would
be better than a hundred doctors--he had tried it himself when he was
down with fever and knew. Aunt Jemima was to go ahead and see that these
preparations were carried out. Should Alec be able to bring his mother
to Kennedy Square in the morning, as he had instructed him to do, then
there would indeed be somebody on hand who could nurse him even better
than Jemima; should his mother not be there, Jemima would take her
place. Nothing of all this, he charged her, was to be told St. George
until the hour of departure. To dwell upon the intended move might
overexcite him. Then, when everything was ready--his linen, etc.,
arranged--(Jemima was also to look after this)--he would whisk him off
and make him comfortable in his own bed. He would, of course, now that
his uncle wished it, keep secret his retreat; although why St. George
Wilmot Temple, Esq., or any other gentleman of his standing, should
object to being taken care of by his own servants was a thing he could
not understand: Pawson, of course, need not know--nor should any outside
person--not even Gadgem if he came nosing around. To these he would
merely say that Mr. Temple had seen fit to leave home and that Mr.
Temple had seen fit to return again: that was quite enough for attorneys
and collectors. To all the others he would keep his counsel, until St.
George himself made confession, which he was pretty sure he would do at
the first opportunity.
This decided upon he bade Jemima good-night, gave her explicit
directions to call him, should his uncle awake (her own room opened out
of St. George's) spread his blanket in the cramped hall outside the sick
man's door--he had not roughed it on shipboard and in the wilderness all
these years without knowing something of the soft side of a plank--and
throwing his heavy ship's coat over him fell fast asleep.
When the first glimmer of the gray dawn stole through the small window
at the end of the narrow hall, and laid its chilled fingers on Harry's
upturned face, it found him still asleep. His ride to Moorlands and
back--his muscles unused for months to the exercise--had tired him. The
trials of the day, too, those with his father and his Uncle George, had
tired him the more--and so he had slept on as a child sleeps--as a
perfectly healthy man sleeps--both mind and body drinking in the ozone
of a new courage and a new hope.
With the first ray of the joyous sun riding full tilt across his face,
he opened his eyes, threw off the cloak, and sprang to his feet. For an
instant he looked wonderingly about as if in doubt whether to call the
watch or begin the hunt for his cattle. Then the pine door caught his
eye and the low, measured breathing of his uncle fell upon his ear, and
with a quick lift of his arms, his strong hands thumping his broad
chest, he stretched himself to his full height: he had work to do, and
he must begin at once.
Aunt Jemima was already at her duties. She had tiptoed past his sleeping
body an hour before, and after listening to St. George's breathing had
plunged into her tubs; the cat's cradle in the dingy court-yard being
already gay with various colored fragments, including Harry's red
flannel shirts which Todd had found in a paper parcel, and which the old
woman had pounced upon at sight. She insisted on making him a cup of
coffee, but he had no time for such luxuries. He would keep on, he said,
to Kennedy Square, find Pawson, ascertain if St. George's old rooms were
still unoccupied; notify him of Mr. Temple's return; have his bed made
and fires properly lighted; stop at the livery stable, wake up Todd, if
that darky had overslept himself--quite natural when he had been up
almost all night--engage a carriage to be at Jemima's at four o'clock,
and then return to get everything ready for the
And all this he did do; and all this he told Jemima he had done when he
swung into the court-yard an hour later, a spring to his heels and a
cheery note in his voice that had not been his for years. The reaction
that hope brings to youth had set in. He was alive and at home; his
Uncle George was where he could get his hands on him--in a minute--by
the mounting of the stairs; and Alec and his mother within reach!
And the same glad song was in his heart when he opened his uncle's door
after he had swallowed his coffee--Jemima had it ready for him this
time--and thrusting in his head cried out:
"We are going to get you out of here, Uncle George!" This with a
laugh--one of his old contagious laughs that was music in the sick man's
"When?" asked the invalid, his face radiant. He had been awake an hour
wondering what it all meant. He had even thought of calling to Jemima to
reassure himself that it was not a dream, until he heard her over her
tubs and refrained from disturbing her.
"Oh, pretty soon! I have just come from Pawson's. Fogbin hasn't put in
an appearance and there's nobody in the rooms and hasn't been anybody
there since you left. He can't understand it, nor can I--and I don't
want to. I have ordered the bed made and a fire started in both the
chamber and the old dining-room, and if anybody objects he has got to
say so to me, and I am a very uncomfortable person to say some kinds of
things to nowadays. So up you get when the time comes; and Todd and
Jemima are to go too. I've got money enough, anyhow, to begin on. Aunt
Jemima says you had a good night and it won't be long now before you are
The radiant smile on the sick man's face blossomed into a laugh:
"Yes--the best night that I have had since I was taken ill, and--Where
did you sleep, my son?"
"Me!--Oh, I had a fine time--long, well-ventilated room with two
windows and private staircase; nice pine bedstead--very comfortable
place for this part of the town."
St. George looked at him and his eyes filled. His mind was neither on
his own questions nor on Harry's answers.
"Get a chair, Harry, and sit by me so I can look at you closer. How fine
and strong you are my son--not like your father--you're like your
mother. And you've broadened out--mentally as well as physically. Pretty
hard I tell you to spoil a gentleman--more difficult still to spoil a
Rutter. But you must get that beard off--it isn't becoming to you, and
then somebody might think you disguised yourself on purpose. I didn't
know you at first, neither did Jemima--and you don't want anybody else
to make that kind of a mistake."
"My father did, yesterday--" Harry rejoined quietly, dropping into
St. George half raised himself from his bed: "You have seen him?"
"Yes--and I wish I hadn't. But I hunted everywhere for you and then got
a horse and rode out home. He didn't know me--that is, I'm pretty sure
he didn't--but he cursed me all the same. My mother and old Alec, I
hope, will come in to-day--but father's chapter is closed forever. I
have been a fool to hope for anything else."
"Drove you out! Oh, no--NO! Harry! Impossible!"
"But he did--" and then followed an account of all the wanderer had
passed through from the time he had set foot on shore to the moment of
meeting Todd and himself.
For some minutes St. George lay staring at the ceiling. It was all a
horrid, nightmare to him. Talbot deserved nothing but contempt and he
would get it so far as he was concerned. He agreed with Harry that all
reconciliation was now a thing of the past; the only solution possible
was that Talbot was out of his senses--the affair having undermined his
reason. He had heard of such cases and had doubted them--he was
convinced now that they could be true. His answer, therefore, to Harry's
next question--one about his lost sweetheart--was given with a certain
hesitation. As long as the memory of Rutter's curses rankled within him
all reference to Kate's affairs--even the little he knew himself--must
be made with some circumspection. There was no hope in that direction
either, but he did not want to tell him so outright; nor did he want to
dwell too long upon the subject.
"And I suppose Kate is married by this time, Uncle George," Harry said
at last in a casual tone, "is she not?" (He had been leading up to it
rather skilfully, but there had been no doubt in his uncle's mind as to
his intention.) "I saw the house lighted up, night before last when I
passed, and a lot of people about, so I thought it might be either the
wedding or the reception." The question had left his lips as one shoots
an arrow in the dark--hit or miss--as if he did not care which. He too
realized that this was no time to open wounds, certainly not in his
uncle's heart; and yet he could wait no longer.
"No--I don't think the wedding has taken place," St. George replied
vaguely. "The servants would know if it had--they know everything--and
Aunt Jemima would be the first to have told me. The house being lighted
up is no evidence. They have been giving a series of entertainments this
winter and there were more to come when I last saw Kate, which was one
night at Richard Horn's. But let us close that chapter too, my boy. You
and I will take a new lease of life from now on. You have already put
fresh blood into my veins--I haven't felt so well for weeks. Now tell me
about yourself. Your last letter reached me six months ago, if I
remember right. You were then in Rio and were going up into the
mountains. Did you go?"
"Yes--up into the Rio Abaste country where they had discovered diamonds
as big as hens' eggs--one had been sold for nearly a quarter of a
million dollars--and everybody was crazy. I didn't find any diamonds
nor anything else but starvation, so I herded cattle, that being the
only thing I knew anything about--how to ride--and slept out on the
lowlands sometimes under a native mat and sometimes under the kindly
stars. Then we had a revolution and cattle raids, and one night I came
pretty near being chewed up by a puma--and so it went. I made a little
money in rawhides after I got to know the natives, and I'm going back to
make some more; and you are going with me when we get things
straightened out. I wouldn't have come home except that I heard you had
been turned out neck and crop from Kennedy Square. One of Mr. Seymour's
clerks stopped in Rio on his way to the River Plate and did some
business with an English agent whom I met afterward at a hacienda, and
who told me about you when he learned I was from Kennedy Square. And
when I think of it all, Uncle George, and what you have suffered on
account of me!"--Here his voice faltered. "No!--I won't talk about it--I
can't. I have spent too many sleepless nights over it: I have been
hungry and half dead, but I have kept on--and I am not through: I'll
pull out yet and put you on your feet once more if I live!"
St. George laid his hand tenderly on the young man's wrist. He knew how
the boy felt about it. That was one of the things he loved him for.
"And so you started home when you heard it," he went on, clearing his
throat. "That was just like you, you dear fellow! And you haven't come
home an hour too soon. I should have been measured for a pine coffin in
another week." The choke was quite in evidence now. "You see, I really
couldn't go to Coston's when I thought it all over. I had made up my
mind to go for a week or so until I saw this place, and then I
determined I would stop with Jemima. I could eke out an existence here
on what I had left and still feel like a gentleman, but I couldn't
settle down on dear Peggy Coston and be anything but a poltroon. As to
my making a living at the law--that was pure moonshine. I haven't opened
a law book for twenty years and now it's too late. People of our
class"--here he looked away from his companion and talked straight at
the foot of the bed--"People of our class my boy," he repeated
slowly--"when they reach the neck and crop period you spoke of, are at
the end of their rope. There are then but two things left--either to
become the inmate of a poorhouse or to become a sponge. I prefer this
bare room as a happy medium, and I am content to stay where I am as long
as we three can keep body and soul together. There is--so Pawson told me
before I left my house--a little money coming in from a ground rent--a
few months off, perhaps, but more than enough to pay Todd back--he gives
Jemima every cent of his wages--and when this does come in and I can get
out once more, I'm going to order my life so I can make a respectable
showing of some kind."
He paused for a moment, fastened his gaze again on Harry, and continued:
"As to my going back to Pawson's, I am not altogether sure that that is
the wisest thing to do. I may have to leave again as soon as I get
comfortably settled in my bed. I turned out at his bidding before and
may have to turn again when he says the word. So don't kindle too many
fires with Pawson's wood--I hadn't a log to my name when I left--or it
may warm somebody's else's shins besides mine," and a merry twinkle
shone in his eyes.
Harry burst out laughing.
"Wood or no wood, Uncle George, I'm going to be landlord now--Pawson can
move out and graze his cattle somewhere else. I'm going to take charge
of the hut and stock and the pack mules and provisions--and with a gun,
if necessary--" and he levelled an imaginary fowling-piece with a boyish
"Don't you try to move anybody without an order of the court!" cried St.
George, joining in the merriment. "With that mortgage hanging over
everything and Gorsuch and your father cudgelling their brains to
foreclose it, you won't have a ghost of a chance. Come to think of it,
however, I might help--for a few weeks' expenses, at least. How would
this do?" Here he had all he could do to straighten his face:
"'Attention now--Hats off in the court-room. For sale or hire! Immediate
delivery. One first-class gentleman, in reasonable repair. Could be made
useful in opening and shutting doors, or in dancing attendance upon
children under one year of age, or in keeping flies from bedridden folk.
Apply, and so forth,' Gadgem could fix it. He has done the most
marvellous things in the last year or two--extraordinary, really! Ask
Todd about it some time--he'll tell you."
They were both roaring with laughter, St. George so buoyed up by the
contagious spirit of the young fellow that he insisted on getting out of
bed and sitting in Aunt Jemima's rocking chair with a blanket across his
All the morning did this happy talk go on:--the joyous unconfined talk
of two men who had hungered and thirsted for each other through weary
bitter days and nights, and whose coming together was like the mingling
of two streams long kept apart, and now one great river flowing to a
common outlet and a common good.
And not only did their talk cover the whole range of Harry's experiences
from the time he left the ship for his sojourn in the hill country and
the mountains beyond, and all of St. George's haps and mishaps, with
every single transaction of Gadgem and Pawson--loving cup, dogs and
all--but when their own personal news was exhausted they both fell back
on their friends, such as Richard Horn and old Judge Pancoast; when he
had seen Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Latrobe--yes, and what of Mr. Poe--had he
written any more?--and were his habits any better?--etc., etc.
"I have seen Mr. Poe several times since that unfortunate dinner, Harry;
the last time when he was good enough to call upon me on his way to
Richmond. He was then particularly himself. You would not have known
him--grave, dignified, perfectly dressed--charming, delightful. He came
in quite late--indeed I was going to bed when I heard his knock and,
Todd being out, I opened the door myself. There was some of that Black
Warrior left, and I brought out the decanter, but he shook his head
courteously and continued his talk. He asked after you. Wonderful man,
Harry--a man you never forget once you know him."
St. George dragged the pine table nearer his chair and moistened his
lips with the glass of milk which Jemima had set beside him. Then he
"You remember Judge Giles, do you not? Lives here on St. Paul
Street--yes--of course you do--for he is a great friend of your father's
and you must have met him repeatedly at Moorlands. Well, one day at the
club he told me the most extraordinary story about Mr. Poe--this was
some time after you'd gone. It seems that the judge was at work in his
study late one snowy night when his doorbell sounded. Outside stood a
man with his coat buttoned close about his throat--evidently a
gentleman--who asked him politely for a sheet of paper and a pen. You
know the judge, and how kind and considerate he is. Well, of course he
asked him in, drew out a chair at his desk and stepped into the next
room to leave him undisturbed. After a time, not hearing him move, he
looked in and to his surprise the stranger had disappeared. On the desk
lay a sheet of paper on which was written three verses of a poem. It was
his 'Bells.' The judge has had them framed, so I hear. There was enough
snow on the ground to bring out the cutters, and Poe had the rhythm of
the bells ringing in his head and being afraid he would forget it he
pulled the judge's doorbell. I wish he'd rung mine. I must get the poem
for you, Harry--it's as famous now as 'The Raven.' Richard, I hear,
reads it so that you can distinguish the sound of each bell."
"Well, he taught me a lesson," said Harry, tucking the blanket close
around his uncle's knees--"one I have never forgotten, and never will.
He sent me to bed a wreck, I remember, but I got up the next morning
with a new mast in me and all my pumps working."
"You mean--" and St. George smiled meaningly and tossed his hand up as
if emptying a glass.
"Yes--just that--" rejoined Harry with a nod. "It's so hot out where I
have been that a glass of native rum is as bad as a snake bite and
everybody except a native leaves it alone. But if I had gone to the
North Pole instead of the equator I would have done the same. Men like
you and father, and Mr. Richard Horn and Mr. Kennedy, who have been
brought up on moderation, may feel as they choose about it, but I'm
going to let it alone. It's the devil when it gets into your blood and
mine's not made for it. I'd like to thank Mr. Poe if I dared, which I
wouldn't, of course, if I ever saw him, for what he did for me. I
wouldn't be surprised if he would give a good deal himself to do the
same--or has he pulled out?"
"He never has pulled in, Harry--not continuously. Richard has the right
of it. Poe is a man pursued by a devil and lives always on the watch to
prevent the fiend from getting the best of him. Months at a time he wins
and then there comes a day when the devil gets on top. He says
himself--he told me this the last time I saw him--that he really lives a
life devoted to his literary work; that he shuts himself up from
everybody; and that the desire for society only comes upon him when he's
excited by drink. Then, and only then, does he go among his fellows.
There is some truth in that, my son, for as long as I have known him I
have never seen him in his cups except that one night at my house. A
courteous, well-bred gentleman, my boy--most punctilious about all his
obligations and very honest about his failings. All he said to me the
next day when he sobered up--I kept him all that night, you
remember--was: 'I was miserably weak and inexcusably drunk last night,
Mr. Temple. If that was all it would make no difference; I have been
very drunk before, and I will be very drunk again; but in addition to my
being drunk I insulted you and your friends and ruined your dinner. That
makes every difference. Don't let it cause a break between us. Let me
come again. And now please brush it from your mind. If you knew how I
suffer over this fiend who tortures and gloats over me you'd only have
the greatest pity for me, in your heart.' Then he wrung my hand and left
"Well, that's all any of us could do," sighed Harry, leaning back in his
chair, his eyes on the ceiling. "It makes some difference, however, of
whom you ask forgiveness. I've been willing to say the same kind of
thing to my father ever since my affair with Mr. Willits, but it would
have fallen on deaf ears. I had another trial at it yesterday, and you
know what happened."
"I don't think your father knew you, Harry," protested St. George, with
a negative wave of his hand.
"I hope he didn't--I shouldn't like to think he did. But, by heaven! it
broke my heart to see him, Uncle George. You would hardly know him. Even
his voice has changed and the shade over his eyes and the way he twists
his head when he looks at you really gave me a creepy feeling," and the
young man passed his fingers across his own eyes as if to shut out some
"Was he looking straight at you when he ordered you from the room?"
"Straight as he could."
"Well, let us try and think it was the beard. And that reminds me, son,
that it's got to come off, and right away. When Todd comes in he'll find
my razors and--"
"No--I'll look up a barber."
"Not down in this part of the town," exclaimed St. George with a
"No--I'll go up to Guy's. There used to be an old negro there who looked
after us young fellows when our beards began to sprout. He'll take care
of it all right. While I'm out I'll stop and send Todd back. I'm going
to end his apprenticeship to-day, and so he'll help you dress. Nothing
like getting into your clothes when you're well enough to get out of
bed; I've done it more than once," and with a pat on his uncle's
shoulder and the readjustment of the blanket, he closed the door behind
him and left the room.
"Everything is working fine, auntie," he cried gaily as he passed the
old woman who was hanging out the last of her wash. "I'll be back in an
hour. Don't tell him yet--" and he strode out of the yard on his way
Intruders of all kinds had thrust their heads between the dripping,
slightly moist, and wholly dry installments of Aunt Jemima's Monday
wash, and each and every one had been assailed by a vocabulary hurled at
them through the creaky gate, and as far out as the street--peddlers;
beggars; tramps; loose darkies with no visible means of support, who had
smelt the cooking in the air--even goats with an acquired taste for
stocking legs and window curtains--all of whom had either been invited
out, whirled out, or thrown out, dependent upon the damage inflicted,
the size of the favors asked, or the length of space intervening between
Jemima's right arm and their backs. In all of these instances the old
cook had been the broom and the intruders the dust. Being an expert in
its use the intruders had succumbed before they had gotten through their
first. sentence. In the case of the goat even that privilege was denied
him; it was the handle and not the brush-part which ended the argument.
To see Aunt Jemima get rid of a goat in one whack and two jumps was not
only a lesson in condensed conversation, but furnished a sight one
rarely forgot--the goat never!
This morning the situation was reversed. It was Aunt Jemima who came
flying upstairs, her eyes popping from her head, her plump hands
flattened against her big, heaving bosom, her breath gone in the effort
to tell her dreadful news before she should drop dead.
"Marse George! who d'ye think's downstairs?" she gasped, bursting in the
door of his bedroom, without even the customary tap. "Oh, bless Gawd!
dat you'se outen dat bed! and dressed and tryin' yo' po' legs about the
room. He's comin' up. Got a man wid him I ain't neber see befo'. Says
he's a-lookin' fer somebody! Git in de closet an' I'll tell him you'se
out an' den I'll run an' watch for Marse Harry at de gate. Oh, I doan'
like dis yere bus'ness," and she began to wring her hands.
St. George, who had been listening to the old woman with mingled
feelings of wonder and curiosity, raised his hand to silence her.
Whether she had gone daft or was more than usually excited he could not
for the moment decide.
"Get your breath, Jemima, and tell me what you're talking about. Who's
"Ain't I jes' don' tol' yer? Got a look on him make ye shiver all over;
says he's gwineter s'arch de house. He's got a constable wid him--dat
is, he's got a man dat looks like a constable, an'--"
St. George laid his hands on the old woman's shoulders, and turned her
"Hush your racket this instant, and tell me who is downstairs?"
"Marse Talbot Rutter," she wheezed; "come f'om de country--got mud all
ober his boots."
"Mr. Harry's father?"
Aunt Jemima choked and nodded: there was no breath left for more.
"Who did he ask for?" St. George was calm enough now.
"Didn't ask fer nobody; he say, 'I'm lookin' fer a man dat come in yere
las' night.' I see he didn't know me an' I neber let on. Den he say,
'Hab you got any boa'ders yere?' an' I say, 'I got one,' an' den he
'tempted ter pass me an' I say, 'Wait a minute 'til I see ef he's outen
de bed.' Now, what's I gwineter do? He doan' mean no good to Marse Harry
an' he'll dribe him 'way ag'in, an' he jes' come back an' you gittin'
well a-lovin' of him--an'--"
An uncertain step was heard in the hall.
"Dat's him," Jemima whispered hoarsely, behind her hand, "what'll I do?
Doan' let him come in. I'll--"
St. George moved past her and pushed back the door.
Colonel Rutter stood outside.
The two men looked into each other's faces.
"I am in search, sir," the colonel began, shading his eyes with his
fingers, the brighter light of the room weakening his sight, "for a
young sailor whom I am informed stopped here last night, and who ... ST.
GEORGE! What in the name of God are you doing in a place like this?"
"Come inside, Talbot," Temple replied calmly, his eyes fixed on Rutter's
drawn face and faltering gaze. "Aunt Jemima, hand Colonel Rutter a
chair. You will excuse me if I sit down--I am just out of bed after a
long illness, and am a little weak," and he settled slowly into his
seat. "My servant tells me that you are looking for a--"
St. George paused. Rutter was paying no more attention to what he said
than if he had been in the next room. He was straining his eyes about
the apartment; taking in the empty bed from which St. George had just
arisen, the cheap chairs and small pine table and the kitchen plates and
cup which still held the remains of St. George's breakfast. He waited
until Jemima had backed out of the door, her scared face still a tangle
of emotions--fear for her master's safety uppermost. His eyes again
veered to St. George.
"What does it all mean, Temple?" he asked in a dazed way.
"I don't think that subject is under discussion, Talbot, and we will,
therefore, pass it. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?"
"Don't be a damned fool, St. George! Don't you see I'm half crazy? Harry
has come back and he is hiding somewhere in this neighborhood."
"How do you know?" he inquired coolly. He did not intend to help Rutter
one iota in his search until he found out why he wanted Harry. No more
cursing of either his son or himself--that was another chapter which was
"Because I've been hunting for him all day. He rode out to Moorlands
yesterday, and I didn't know him, he's so changed. But think of it! St.
George, I ordered him out of my office. I took him for a road-peddler.
And he's going to sea again--he told Alec as much. I tell you I have got
to get hold of him! Don't sit there and stare at me, man! tell me where
I can find my son!"
"What made you suppose he was here, Talbot?" The same cool, measured
speech and manner, but with a more open mind behind it now. The pathetic
aspect of the man, and the acute suffering shown in every tone of his
voice, had begun to tell upon the invalid.
"Because a man I've got downstairs brought Harry here last night. He is
not positive, as it was quite dark, but he thinks this is the place. I
went first to the Barkeley Line, found they had a ship in--the
Mohican--and saw the captain, who told me of a man who came aboard at
Rio. Then I learned where he had put up for the night--a low sailors'
retreat--and found this peddler who said he had sold Harry the silks
which he offered me. He brought me here."
"Well, I can't help you any. There are only two rooms--I occupy this and
my old cook, Jemima, has the other. I have been here for over a month."
"Here! in this God-forsaken place! Why, we thought you had gone to
Virginia. That's why we have had no answers to our letters, and we've
hunted high and low for you. Certainly you have heard about the Patapsco
"I certainly have heard nothing, Talbot, and as I have just told you,
I'd rather you would not discuss my affairs. The last time you saw fit
to encroach upon them brought only bitterness, and I prefer not to
repeat it. Anything you have to say about Harry I will gladly hear. Go
"For God's sake, St. George, don't take that tone with me! If you knew
how wretched I am you'd be sorry for me. I am a broken-down man! If
Harry goes away again without my seeing him I don't want to live another
day. When Alec came running back last night and told me that I had
cursed my son to his face, I nearly went out of my mind. I knew when I
saw Alec's anger that it was true, and I knew, too, what a brute I had
been. I ran to Annie's room, took her in my arms, and asked her pardon.
All night I walked my room; at daylight I rang for Alec, sent for
Matthew, and he hooked up the carryall and we came in here. Annie wanted
to come with me, but I wouldn't let her. I knew Seymour wasn't out of
bed that early, and so I drove straight to the shipping office and
waited until it was open, and I've been hunting for him ever since. You
and I have been boys together, St. George--don't lay up against me all
the insulting things I've said to you--all the harm I've done you! God
knows I've repented of it! Will you forgive me, St. George, for the sake
of the old days--for the sake of my boy to whom you have been a father?
Will you give me your hand? What in the name of common sense should you
and I be enemies for? I, who owe you more than I owe any man in the
world! Will you help me?"
St. George was staring now. He bent forward, gripped the arms of his
chair for a better purchase, and lifted himself to his feet. There he
stood swaying, Rutter's outstretched hand in both of his, his whole
nature stirred--only one thought in his heart--to wipe out the past and
bring father and son together.
"Yes, Talbot--I'll forgive you and I'll help you--I have helped you!
Harry will be here in a few minutes--I sent him out to get his beard
shaved off--that's why you didn't know him."
The colonel reeled and but for St. George's hand would have lost his
balance. All the blood was gone from his cheeks. He tried to speak, but
the lips refused to move. For an instant St. George thought he would
sink to the floor.
"You say--Harry ... is here!" he stammered out at last, catching wildly
at Temple's other hand to steady himself.
"Yes, he came across Todd by the merest accident or he would have gone
to the Eastern Shore to look me up. Listen!--that's his step now! Turn
that door knob and hold out your hands to him, and after you've got your
arms around him get down on your knees and thank your God that you've
got such a son! I do, every hour I live!"
The door swung wide and Harry strode in: his eyes glistening, his cheeks
"Up, are you, and in your clothes!" he cried joyfully, all the freshness
of the morning in his voice. "Well, that's something like! How do you
like me now?--smooth as a marlinspike and my hair trimmed in the latest
fashion, so old Bones says. He didn't know me either till he got clear
down below my mouth and when my chin began to show he gave a--"
He stopped and stared at his father, who had been hidden from sight by
the swinging door. The surprise was so great that his voice clogged in
his throat. Rutter stood like one who had seen an apparition.
St. George broke the silence:
"It's all right, Harry--give your father your hand."
The colonel made a step forward, threw out one arm as if to regain his
equilibrium and swayed toward a chair, his frame shaking convulsively,
wholly unstrung, sobbing like a child. Harry sprang to catch him and the
two sank down together--no word of comfort--only the mute appeal of
touch--the brown hand wet with his father's tears.
For some seconds neither spoke, then Rutter raised his head and looked
into his son's face.
"I didn't know it was you, Harry. I have been hunting you all day to ask
your pardon." It was the memory of the last indignity he had heaped upon
him that tortured him.
"I knew you didn't, father."
"Don't go away again, Harry, please don't, my son!" he pleaded,
strangling the tears, trying to regain his self-control--tears had often
of late moistened Rutter's lids. "Your mother can't stand it another
year, and I'm breaking up--half blind. You won't go, will you?"
"No--not right away, father--we'll talk of that later." He was still in
the dark as to how it had come about. All he knew was that for the first
time in all his life his father had asked his pardon, and for the first
time in his life the barrier which held them apart had been broken down.
The colonel braced himself in his seat in one supreme effort to get
himself in hand. One of his boasts was that he had never lost his
self-control. Harry rose to his feet and stood beside him. St. George,
trembling from his own weakness, a great throb of thankfulness in his
heart, had kept his place in his chair, his eyes turned away from the
scene. His own mind had also undergone a change. He had always known
that somewhere down in Talbot Rutter's heart--down underneath the strata
of pride and love of power, there could be found the heart of a
father--indeed he had often predicted to himself just such a coming
together. It was the boy's pluck and manliness that had done it; a
manliness free from all truckling or cringing. And then his tenderness
over the man who had of all others in the world wronged him most! He
could hardly keep his glad hands off the boy.
"You will go home with me, of course, won't you, Harry?" He must ask his
consent now--this son of his whom he had driven from his home and
insulted in the presence of his friends at the club, and whom he could
see was now absolutely independent of him--and what was more to the
point absolutely his own master.
"Yes, of course, I'll go home with you, father," came the respectful
answer, "if mother isn't coming in. Did she or Alec say anything to you
about it before you left?"
"No, she isn't coming in to-day--I wouldn't let her. It was too early
when I started. But that's not what I mean," he went on with increasing
excitement. "I want you to go home with me and stay forever; I want to
forget the past; I want St. George to hear me say so! Come and take your
place at the head of the estate--I will have Gorsuch arrange the papers
to-morrow. You and St. George must go back with me to-day. I have the
large carryall--Matthew is with me--he stopped at the corner--he's there
"That's very kind of you, father," Harry rejoined calmly, concealing as
best he could his disappointment at not being able to see his mother.
"Yes! of course you will go with me," his father continued in nervous,
jerky tones. "Please send the servant for Matthew, my coachman, and have
him drive up. As for you, St. George, you can't stay here another hour.
How you ever got here is more than I can understand. Moorlands is the
place for you both--you'll get well there. My carriage is a very easy
one. Perhaps I had better go for Matthew myself."
"No, don't move, Talbot," rejoined St. George in a calm firm voice
wondering at Talbot's manner. He had never seen him like this. All his
old-time measured talk and manner were gone; he was like some
breathless, hunted man pleading for his life. "I'm very grateful to you
but I shall stay here. Harry, will you kindly go for Matthew?"
"Stay here!--for how long?" cried the colonel in astonishment, his
glance following Harry as he left the room in obedience to his uncle's
"Well, perhaps for the balance of the winter."
"In this hole?" His voice had grown stronger.
"Certainly, why not?" replied St. George simply, moving his chair so
that his guest might see him the better. "My servants are taking care of
me. I can pay my way here, and it's about the only place in which I can
pay it, and I want to tell you frankly, Talbot, that I am very happy to
be here--am very glad, really, to get such a place. No one could be more
devoted than my Todd and Jemima--I shall never forget their kindness."
"But you're not a pauper?" cried the colonel in some heat.
"That was what you were once good enough to call me--the last time we
met. The only change is that then I owed Pawson and that now I owe
Todd," he replied, trying to repress a smile, as if the humor of the
situation would overcome him if he was not careful. "Thank you very
much, Talbot--and I mean every word of it--but I'll stay where I am, at
least for the present."
"But the bank is on its legs again," rebounded the colonel, ignoring all
reference to the past, his voice gaining in volume.
"So am I," laughed St. George, tapping his lean thighs with his
transparent fingers--"on a very shaky pair of legs--so shaky that I
shall have to go to bed again pretty soon."
"But you're coming out all right, St. George!" Rutter had squared
himself in his chair and was now looking straight at his host. "Gorsuch
has written you half a dozen letters about it and not a word from you in
reply. Now I see why. But all that will come out in time, I tell you.
You're not going to stay here for an hour longer." His old personality
was beginning to assert itself.
"The future doesn't interest me, Talbot," smiled St. George in perfect
good humor. "In my experience my future has always been worse than my
"But that is no reason why you shouldn't go home with me now and let us
take care of you," Rutter cried in a still more positive tone. "Annie
will be delighted. Stay a month with me--stay a year. After what I owe
you, St. George, there's nothing I wouldn't do for you."
"You have already done it, Talbot--every obligation is wiped out,"
rejoined St. George in a satisfied tone.
"By coming here and asking Harry's pardon--that is more to me than all
the things I have ever possessed," and his voice broke as he thought of
the change that had taken place in Harry's fortunes in the last half
"Then come out to Moorlands and let me prove it!" exclaimed the colonel,
leaning forward in his eagerness and grasping St. George by the sleeve.
"No," replied St. George in appreciative but positive tones--showing his
mind was fully made up. "If I go anywhere I'll go back to my house on
Kennedy Square--that is to the little of it that is still mine. I'll
stay there for a day or two, to please Harry--or until they turn me out
again, and then I'll come back here. Change of air may do me good, and
besides, Jemima and Todd should get a rest."
The colonel rose to his feet: "You shall do no such thing!" he exploded.
The old dominating air was in full swing now. "I tell you you WILL come
with me! Damn you, St. George!--if you don't I'll never speak to you
again, so help me, God!"
St. George threw back his head and burst into a roar of laughter in
which, after a moment of angry hesitation, Rutter joined. Then he
reached down and with his hand on St. George's shoulder, said in a
coaxing tone--"Come along to Moorlands, old fellow--I'd be so glad to
have you, and so will Annie, and we'll live over the old days."
Harry's re-entrance cut short the answer.
"No father," he cried cheerily, taking up the refrain. He had seen the
friendly caress and had heard the last sentence. "Uncle George is still
too ill, and too weak for so long a drive. It's only the excitement over
my return that keeps him up now--and he'll collapse if we don't look
out--but he'll collapse in a better place than this!" he added with
joyous emphasis. "Todd is outside, the hack is at the gate, and Jemima
is now waiting for him in his old room at home. Give me your arm, you
blessed old cripple, and let me help you downstairs. Out of the way,
father, or he'll change his mind and I'll have to pick him up bodily and
St. George shot a merry glance at Harry from under his eyebrows, and
with a wave of his hand and a deprecating shake of his head at the
"These rovers and freebooters, Talbot, have so lorded it over their
serfs that they've lost all respect for their betters. Give me your
hand, you vagabond, and if you break my neck I'll make you bury me."
The colonel looked on silently and a sharp pain gripped his throat.
When, in all his life, had he ever been spoken to by his boy in that
spirit, and when in all his life had he ever seen that same tenderness
in Harry's eyes? What had he not missed?
"Harry, may I make a suggestion?" he asked almost apologetically. The
young fellow turned his head in respectful attention: "Put St. George in
my carriage--it is much more comfortable--and let me drive him home--my
eyes are quite good in the daytime, after I get used to the light, and I
am still able to take the road. Then put your servant and mine in the
hack with St. George's and your own luggage."
"Capital idea!" cried Harry enthusiastically "I never thought of it!
Attention company! Eyes to the front, Mr. Temple! You'll now remain on
waiting orders until I give you permission to move, and as this may take
some time--please hold on to him, father, until I get his chair" (they
were already out on the landing--on the very plank where Harry had
passed the night) "you'll go back to your quarters ... Here sir, these
are your quarters," and Harry dragged the chair into position with his
foot. "Down with you ... that's it ... and you will stay here until the
baggage and hospital train arrives, when you'll occupy a front seat in
the van--and there will be no grumbling or lagging behind of any kind,
remember, or you'll get ten days in the calaboose!"
Pawson was on the curbstone, his face shining, his semaphore arms and
legs in action, his eyes searching the distance, when the two vehicles
came in sight. He had heard the day boat was very late, and as there had
been a heavy fog over night, did not worry about the delay in their
What troubled him more was the change in Mr. Temple's appearance. He had
gone away ruddy, erect, full of vigor and health, and here he was being
helped out of the carriage, pale, shriveled, his eyes deep set in his
head. His voice, though, was still strong if his legs were shaky, and
there seemed also to be no diminution in the flow of his spirits. Wesley
had kept that part of him intact whatever changes the climate had made.
"Ah, Pawson--glad to see you!" the invalid called gaily extending his
hand as soon as he stood erect on the sidewalk. "Back again, you
see--these old derelicts bob up once in a while when you least expect
them." And he wrung his hand heartily. "So the vultures, it seems, have
not turned up yet and made their roost in my nest. Most kind of you to
stay home and give up your business to meet me! You know Colonel Talbot
Rutter, of Moorlands, I presume, and Mr. Harry Rutter--Of course you do!
Harry has told me all about your midnight meeting when you took him for
a constable, and he took you for a thief. No--please don't laugh,
Pawson--Mr. Rutter is the worst kind of a thief. Not only has he stolen
my heart because of his goodness to me, but he threatens to make off
with my body. Give me your hand, Todd. Now a little lift on that rickety
elbow and I reckon we can make that flight of steps. I have come down
them so many times of late with no expectation of ever mounting them
again that it will be a novelty to be sure of staying over night. Come
in, Talbot, and see the home of my ancestors. I am sorry the Black
Warrior is all gone--I sent Kennedy the last bottle some time ago--pity
that vintage didn't last forever. Do you know, Talbot, if I had my way,
I'd have a special spigot put in the City Spring labelled 'Gift of a
once prominent citizen,' and supply the inhabitants with 1810--something
fit for a gentleman to drink."
They were all laughing now; the colonel carrying the pillows Todd had
tucked behind the invalid's back, Harry a few toilet articles wrapped in
paper, and Matthew his cane--and so the cortege crawled up the steps,
crossed the dismantled dining-room--the colonel aghast at the change
made in its interior since last he saw it--and so on to St. George's
room where Todd and Jemima put him to bed.
His uncle taken care of--(his father had kept on to Moorlands to tell
his mother the good news)--Harry mounted the stairs to his old room,
which Pawson had generously vacated.
The appointments were about the same as when he left; time and poverty
had wrought but few changes. Pawson, had moved in a few books and there
was a night table beside the small bed with a lamp on it, showing that
he read late; but the bureau and shabby arm-chair, and the closet,
stripped now of the young attorney's clothes to make room for the
wanderer's--(a scant, sorry lot)--were pretty much the same as Harry
had found on that eventful night when he had driven in through the rain
and storm beside his Uncle George, his father's anathemas ringing in his
Unconsciously his mind went back to the events of the day;--more
especially to his uncle's wonderful vitality and the blissful change his
own home-coming had wrought not only in his physique, but in his
spirits. Then his father's shattered form, haggard face, and uncertain
glance rose before him, and with it came the recollection of all that
had happened during the previous hours: his father's brutal outburst in
the small office and the marvellous effect produced upon him when he
learned the truth from Alec's lips; his hurried departure in the gray
dawn for the ship and his tracing him to Jemima's house. More amazing
still was his present bearing toward himself and St. George; his
deference to their wishes and his willingness to follow and not lead.
Was it his ill-health that had brought about this astounding reformation
in a man who brooked no opposition?--or had his heart really softened
toward him so that from this on he could again call him father in the
full meaning of the term? At this a sudden, acute pain wrenched his
heart. Perhaps he had not been glad enough to see him--perhaps in his
anxiety over his uncle he had failed in those little tendernesses which
a returned prodigal should have shown the father who had held out his
arms and asked his forgiveness. Why was he not more affected by the
sight of his suffering. When he first saw his uncle he had not been able
to keep the tears back--and yet his eyes were dry enough when he saw his
father. At this he fell to wondering as to the present condition of the
colonel's mind. What was he thinking of in that lonely drive. He must be
nearing Moorlands by this time and Alec would meet him, and later the
dear mother--and the whole story would be told. He could see her glad
face--her eyes streaming tears, her heart throbbing with the joy of his
And it is a great pity he could not have thus looked in upon the
autocrat of Moorlands as he sat hunched up on the back seat of the
carryall, his head bowed, the only spoken words being Matthew's cheery
hastening of his horses. And it is even a greater pity that the son
could not have searched as well the secret places of the man's heart:
such clearings out of doubts and misgivings make for peace and good
fellowship and righteousness in this world of misunderstanding.
That a certain rest had come into Rutter's soul could be seen in his
face--a peace that had not settled on his features for years--but, if
the truth must be told, he was far from happy. Somehow the joy he had
anticipated at the boy's home-coming had not been realized. With the
warmth of Harry's grasp still lingering in his own and the tones of his
voice still sounding in his ears, try as he might, he yet felt aloof
from him--outside--far off. Something had snapped in the years they had
been apart--something he knew could never be repaired. Where there had
once been boyish love there was now only filial regard. Down in his
secret soul he felt it--down in his secret soul he knew it! Worse than
that--another had replaced him! "Come, you dear old cripple!"--he could
hear the voice and see the love and joy in the boy's eyes as he shouted
it out. Yes, St. George was his father now!
Then his mind reverted to his former treatment of his son and for the
hundredth time he reviewed his side of the case. What else could he have
done and still maintain the standards of his ancestors?--the universal
question around Kennedy Square, when obligations of blood and training
were to be considered. After all it had only been an object lesson; he
had fully intended to forgive him later on. When Harry was a boy he
punished him as boys were punished; when he became a man he punished him
as men were punished. But for St. George the plan would long since have
worked. St. George had balked him twice--once at the club and once at
his home in Kennedy Square, when he practically ordered him from the
And yet he could not but admit--and at this he sat bolt upright in his
seat--that even according to his own high standards both St. George and
Harry had measured up to them! Rather than touch another penny of his
uncle's money Harry had become an exile; rather than accept a penny from
his enemy, St. George had become a pauper. With this view of the case
fermenting in his mind--and he had not realized the extent of both
sacrifices until that moment--a feeling of pride swept through him. It
was HIS BOY and HIS FRIEND, who had measured up!--by suffering, by
bodily weakness--by privation--by starvation! And both had manfully and
cheerfully stood the test! It was the blood of the DeRuyters which had
put courage into the boy; it was the blood of the cavaliers that had
made Temple the man he was. And that old DeRuyter blood! How it had told
in every glance of his son's eyes and every intonation of his voice! If
he had not accumulated a fortune he would--and that before many years
were gone. But!--and here a chill went through him. Would not this still
further separate them, and if it did how could he restore in the
shortest possible time the old dependence and the old confidence? His
efforts so far had met with almost a rebuff, for Harry had shown no
particular pleasure when he told him of his intention to put him in
charge of the estate: he had watched his face closely for a sign of
satisfaction, but none had come. He had really seemed more interested in
getting St. George downstairs than in being the fourth heir of Moorlands
--indeed, it was very evident that he had no thought for anybody or
anything except St. George.
All this the son might have known could he have sat by his father in the
carryall on this way to Moorlands.
The sudden halting of two vehicles close to the horse-block of the
Temple Mansion--one an aristocratic carryall driven by a man in livery,
and the other a dilapidated city hack in charge of a negro in patched
overcoat and whitey-brown hat, the discharge of their inmates, one of
whom was Colonel Talbot Rutter of Moorlands carrying two pillows, and
another a strange young man loaded down with blankets--the slow
disembarking of a gentleman in so wretched a state of health that he was
practically carried up the front steps by his body-servant, and the
subsequent arrival of Dr. Teackle on the double quick--was a sight so
unusual in and around peaceful Kennedy Square that it is not surprising
that all sorts of reports--most of them alarming--reached the club long
before St. George had been comfortably tucked away in bed.
Various versions were afloat: "St. George was back from Wesley with a
touch of chills and fever--" "St. George was back from Wesley with a
load of buckshot in his right arm--" "St. George had broken his
collar-bone riding to hounds--" etc.
Richard Horn was the first to spring to his feet--it was the afternoon
hour and the club was full--and cross the Square on the run, followed by
Clayton, Bowman, and two or three others. These, with one accord, banged
away on the knocker, only to be met by Dr. Teackle, who explained that
there was nothing seriously the matter with Mr. Temple, except an attack
of foolhardiness in coming up the bay when he should have stayed in
bed--but even that should cause his friends no uneasiness, as he was
still as tough as a lightwood knot, and bubbling over with good humor;
all he needed was rest, and that he must have--so please everybody come
By the next morning the widening of ripples caused by the dropping of a
high-grade invalid into the still pool of Kennedy Square, spread with
such force and persistency that one wavelet overflowed Kate's
dressing-room. Indeed, it came in with Mammy Henny and her coffee.
"Marse George home, honey--Ben done see Todd. Got a mis'ry in his back
dat bad it tuk two gemmens to tote him up de steps."
"Uncle George home, and ill!"
That was enough for Kate. She didn't want any coffee--she didn't want
any toast or muffins, or hominy--she wanted her shoes and stockings
and--Yes everything, and quick!--and would Mammy Henny call Ben and
send him right away to Mr. Temple's and find out how her dear Uncle
George had passed the night, and give him her dearest love and tell him
she would come right over to see him the moment she could get into her
clothes; and could she send anything for him to eat; and did the doctor
think it was dangerous--? Yes--and Ben must keep on to Dr. Teackle's and
find out if it was dangerous--and say to him that Miss Seymour wanted to
know IMMEDIATELY, and-- (Here the poor child lost her breath, she was
dressing all the time, Mammy Henny's fingers and ears doing their best)
"and tell Mr. Temple, too," she rushed on, "that he must send word by
Ben for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING he needed" (strong accent on the two
words) ... all of which was repeated through the crack of the door to
patient Ben when he presented himself, with the additional assurance
that he must tell Mr. Temple it wouldn't be five minutes before she
would be with him--as she was nearly dressed, all but her hair.
She was right about her good intentions, but she was wrong about the
number of minutes necessary to carry them out. There was her morning
gown to button, and her gaiters to lace, and her hair to be braided and
caught up in her neck (she always wore it that way in the morning) and
the dearest of snug bonnets--a "cabriolet" from Paris--a sort of hood,
stiffened with wires, out of which peeped pink rosebuds quite as they do
from a trellis--had to be put on, and the white strings tied "just
so"--the bows flaring out and the long ends smoothed flat; and then the
lace cape and scarf and her parasol;--all these and a dozen other little
niceties had to be adjusted before she could trip down her father's
stairs and out of her father's swinging gate and on through the park to
her dear Uncle George.
But when she did--and it took her all of an hour--nothing that the
morning sun shone on was quite as lovely, and no waft of air so
refreshing or so welcome as our beloved heroine when she burst in upon
"Oh!--you dear, DEAR thing!" she cried, tossing her parasol on Pawson's
table and stretching out her arms toward him sitting in his chair. "Oh,
I am so sorry! Why didn't you let me know you were ill? I would have
gone down to Wesley. Oh!--I KNEW something was the matter with you or
you would have answered my letters."
He had struggled to his feet at the first sound of her footsteps in the
hall, and had her in his arms long before she had finished her
greeting;--indeed her last sentence was addressed to the collar of his
coat against which her cheek was cushioned.
"Who said I was ill?" he asked with one of his bubbling laughs when he
got his breath.
"Todd told Ben--and you ARE!--and it breaks my heart." She was holding
herself off now, scanning his pale face and shrunken frame--"Oh, I am so
sorry you did not let me know!"
"Todd is a chatterer, and Ben no better; I've only had a bad cold--and
you couldn't have done me a bit of good if you had come--and now I am
entirely well, never felt better in my life. Oh--but it's good to get
hold of you, Kate,--and you are still the same bunch of roses. Sit down
now and tell me all about it. I wish I had a better chair for you, my
dear, but the place is quite dismantled, as you see. I expected to stay
the winter when I left."
She had not given a thought to the chair or to the changes--had not even
noticed them. That the room was stripped of its furniture prior to a
long stay was what invariably occurred in her own house every summer: it
was her precious uncle's pale, shrunken face and the blue veins that
showed in the backs of his dear transparent hands which she held between
her own, and the thin, emaciated wrists that absorbed her.
"You poor, dear Uncle George!" she purred--"and nobody to look after
you." He had drawn up Pawson's chair and had placed her in it beside the
one he sat in, and had then dropped slowly into his own, the better to
hide from her his weakness--but it did not deceive her. "I'm going to
have you put back to bed this very minute; you are not strong enough to
sit up. Let me call Aunt Jemima."
St. George shook his head good-naturedly in denial and smoothed her
hands with his fingers.
"Call nobody and do nothing but sit beside me and let me look into your
face and listen to your voice. I have been pretty badly shaken up; had
two weeks of it that couldn't have been much worse--but since then I
have been on the mend and am getting stronger every minute. I haven't
had any medicine and I don't want any now--I just want you and--" he
hesitated, and seeing nothing in her eyes of any future hope for Harry,
finished the sentence, with "and one or two others to sit by me and
cheer me up; that's better than all the doctors in the, world. And now,
first about your father and then about yourself."
"Oh, he's very well," she rejoined absently. "He's off somewhere, went
away two days ago. He'll be back in a week. But you must have something
to eat--GOOD things!"--her mind still occupied with his condition. "I'm
going to have some chicken broth made the moment I get home and it will
be sent fresh every day: and you must eat every bit of it!"
Again St. George's laugh rang out. He had let her run on--it was music
to his ears--that he might later on find some clue on which he could
frame a question he had been revolving in his mind ever since he heard
her voice in the hall. He would not tell her about Harry--better wait
until he could read her thoughts the clearer. If he could discover by
some roundabout way that she would still refuse to see him it would be
best not to embarrass her with any such request; especially on this her
"Yes--I'll eat anything and everything you send me, you dear Kate--and
many thanks to you, provided you'll come with it--you are the best broth
for me. But you haven't answered my question--not all of it. What have
YOU been doing since I left?"
"Wondering whether you would forgive me for the rude way in which I left
you the last time I saw you,--the night of Mr. Horn's reading, for one
thing. I went off with Mr. Willits and never said a word to you. I wrote
you a letter telling you how sorry I was, but you never answered it, and
that made me more anxious than ever."
"What foolishness, Kate! I never got it, of course, or you would have
heard from me right away. A number of my letters have gone astray of
late. But I don't remember a thing about it, except that you walked off
with your--" again he hesitated--"with Mr. Willits, which, of course,
was the most natural thing for you to do in the world. How is he, by the
Kate drew back her shoulders with that quick movement common to her when
some antagonism in her mind preceded her spoken word.
"I don't know--I haven't seen him for some weeks."
St. George started in his chair: "You haven't! He isn't ill, is he?"
"No, I think not," she rejoined calmly.
"Oh, then he has gone down to his father's. Yes, I remember he goes
quite often," he ventured.
"No, I think he is still here." Her gaze was on the window as she spoke,
through which could be seen the tops of the trees glistening in the
"And you haven't seen him? Why?" asked St. George wonderingly--he was
not sure he had heard her aright.
"I told him not to come," she replied in a positive tone.
St. George settled back in his chair. Had there been a clock in the room
its faintest tick would have rung out like a trip-hammer.
"Then you have had a quarrel: he has broken his promise to you and got
"No, he has never broken it; he has kept it as faithfully as Harry kept