Part 7 out of 7
"You don't mean, Kate, that you have broken off your engagement?"
She reached over and picked up her parasol: "There never was any
engagement. I have always felt sorry for Mr. Willits and tried my best
to love him and couldn't--that is all. He understands it perfectly; we
both do. It was one of the things that couldn't be."
All sorts of possibilities surged one after the other through the old
diplomat's mind. A dim light increasing in intensity began to shine
about him. What it meant he dared not hope. "What does your father say?"
he asked slowly, after a pause in which he had followed every expression
that crossed her face.
"Nothing--and it wouldn't alter the case if he did. I am the best judge
of what is good for me." There was a certain finality in her cadences
that repelled all further discussion. He remembered having heard the
same ring before.
"When did all this happen?--this telling him not to come?" he persisted,
determined to widen the inquiry. His mind was still unable to fully
grasp the situation.
"About five weeks ago. Do you want to know the very night?" She turned
her head as she spoke and looked at him with her full, deep eyes.
"Yes, if you wish me to."
"The night Mr. Horn read 'The Cricket on the Hearth,'" she answered in a
tone of relief--as if some great crisis had marked the hour, the passing
of which had brought her infinite peace. "I told him when I got home,
and I have never seen him since."
For some seconds St. George did not move. He had turned from her and sat
with his head resting on his hand, his eyes intent on the smouldering
fire: he dare not trust himself to speak; wide ranges opened before him;
the light had strengthened until it was blinding. Kate sat motionless,
her hands in her lap, her eyes searching St. George's face for some
indication of the effect of her news. Then finding him still silent and
absorbed in his thoughts, she went on:
"There was nothing else to do, Uncle George. I had done all I could to
please my father and one or two of my friends. There was nothing against
him--he was very kind and very considerate--but somehow I--" She paused
and drew a long breath.
"Somehow what?" demanded St. George raising his head quickly and
studying her the closer. The situation was becoming vital now--too vital
for any further delay.
"Oh, I don't know--I couldn't love him--that's all. He has many
excellent qualities--too many maybe," and she smiled faintly. "You know
I never liked people who were too good--that is, too willing to do
everything you wanted them to do--especially men who ought really to be
masters and--" She stopped and played with the top of her parasol,
smoothing the knob with her palm as if the better to straighten out the
tangle in her mind. "I expect you will think me queer, Uncle George, but
I have come to the conclusion that I will never love anybody again--I am
through with all that. It's very hard, you know, to mend a thing when
it's broken. I used to say to myself that when I grew to be a woman I
supposed I would love as any other woman seemed content to love; that no
romance of a young girl was ever realized and that they could only be
found in love stories. But my theories all went to pieces when I heard
Mr. Horn that night. Dot's love for John the Carrier--I have read it so
often since that I know the whole story by heart--Dot's love for John
was the real thing, but May Fielding's love for Tackleton wasn't. And it
seemed so wonderful when her lover came home and--it's foolish, I
know--very silly--that I should have been so moved by just the reading
of a story--but it's true. It takes only a very little to push you over
when you are on the edge, and I had been on the edge for a long time.
But don't let us talk about it, dear Uncle George," she added with a
forced smile. "I'm going to take care of you now and be a charming old
maid with side curls and spectacles and make flannel things for the
poor--you just wait and see what a comfort I will be." Her lips were
trembling, the tears crowding over the edges of her lids.
St. George stretched out his hand and in his kindest voice said:
"Was it the carrier and his wife, or was it the sailor boy who came back
so fine and strong, that affected you, Kate?--and made you give up Mr.
Willits?" He would go to the bottom now.
"It was everything, Uncle George--the sweetness of it all--her pride in
her husband--his doubts of her--her repentance; and yet she did what
she thought was for the best; and then his forgiveness and the way he
wanted to take her in his arms at last and she would not until she
explained. And there was nothing really to explain--only love, and
trust, and truth--all the time believing in him--loving him. Oh, it is
cruel to part people--it's so mean and despicable! There are so many
Tackletons--and the May Fieldings go to the altar and so on to their
graves--and there is often such a very little difference between the
two. I never gave my promise to Mr. Willits. I would not!--I could not!
He kept hoping and waiting. He was very gentle and patient--he never
coaxed nor pleaded, but just--Oh, Uncle George!--let me talk it all
out--I have nobody else. I missed you so, and there was no one who
could understand, and you wouldn't answer my letters." She was crying
softly to herself, her beautiful head resting on her elbow pillowed on
the back of his chair.
He leaned forward the closer: he loved this girl next best to Harry. Her
sorrows were his own. Was it all coming out as he had hoped and prayed
for? He could hardly restrain himself in his eagerness.
"Did you miss anybody else, Kate?" There was a peculiar tenderness in
She did not raise her head nor did she answer. St. George waited and
repeated the question, Slipping his hand over hers, as he spoke.
"It was the loneliness, Uncle George," she replied, evading his
inference. "I tried to forget it all, and I threw open our house and
gave parties and dances--hardly a week but there has been something
going on--but nothing did any good. I have been--yes--wretchedly
unhappy and--No, it will only distress you to hear it--don't let's talk
any more about it. I won't let you go away again. I'll go away with you
if you don't get better soon, anywhere you say. We'll go down to the
White Sulphur--Yes--we'll go there. The air is so bracing--it wouldn't
be a week before all the color would come back to your cheeks and you be
as strong as ever."
He was not listening. His mind was framing a question--one he must ask
without committing himself or her. He was running a parallel,
really--reading her heart by a flank movement.
"Kate, dear?" He had regained his position although he still kept hold
of her hand.
"Yes, Uncle George."
"Did you write to Harry, as I asked you?"
"No, it wouldn't have done any good. I have had troubles enough of my
own without adding any to his."
"Were you afraid he would not answer it?"
She lifted her head and tightened her fingers about his own, her wet
eyes looking into his.
"I was afraid of myself. I have never known my own mind and I don't know
it now. I have played fast and loose with everybody--I can't bind up a
broken arm and then break it again."
"Wouldn't it be better to try?" he said softly.
"No, I don't think so."
St. George released her hand and settled back in his chair; his face
grew grave. What manner of woman was this, and how could he reach the
inner kernel of her heart? Again he raised his head and leaning forward
took both her hands between his own.
"I am going to tell you a story, Kate--one you have never heard--not all
of it. When I was about your age--a little older perhaps, I gave my
heart to a woman who had known me from a boy; with whom I had played
when she was a child. I'm not going into the whole story, such things
are always sad; nor will I tell you anything of the beginning of the
three happy months of our betrothal nor of what caused our separation. I
shall only tell you of the cruelty of the end. There was a
misunderstanding--a quarrel--I begging her forgiveness on my knees. All
the time her heart was breaking. One little word from her would have
healed everything. Some years after that she married and her life still
goes on. I am what you see."
Kate looked at him with swimming eyes. She dimly remembered that she had
heard that her uncle had had a love affair in his youth and that his
sweetheart had jilted him for a richer man, but she had never known that
he had suffered so bitterly over it. Her heart went out to him all the
"Will you tell me who it was?" She had no right to ask; but she might
comfort him the better if she knew.
Kate dropped his hands and drew back in her seat.
"You--loved--Mrs.--Rutter--and she--refused you for--Oh!--what a cruel
thing to do! And what a fool she was. Now I know why you have been so
good to Harry. Oh, you poor, dear Uncle George. Oh, to think that you of
all men! Is there any one whose heart is not bruised and broken?" she
added in a helpless tone.
"Plenty of them, Kate--especially those who have been willing to stoop a
little and so triumph. Harry has waited three years for some word from
you; he has not asked for it, for he believes you have forgotten him;
and then he was too much of a man to encroach upon another's rights.
Does your breaking off with Mr. Willits alter the case in any way?--does
it make any difference? Is this sailor boy always to be a wanderer
--never to come home to his people and the woman he loves?"
"He'll never come back to me, Uncle George," she said with a shudder,
dropping her eyes. "I found that out the day we talked together in the
park, just before he left. And he's not coming home. Father got a letter
from one of his agents who had seen him. He was looking very well and
was going up into the mountains--I wrote you about it. I am sorry you
didn't get the letter--but of course he has written you too."
"Suppose I should tell you that he would come back if he thought you
would be glad to see him--glad in the old way?"
Kate shook her head: "He would never come. He hates me, and I don't
blame him. I hate myself when I think of it all."
"But if he should walk in now?"--he was very much afraid he would, and
he was not quite ready for him yet. What he was trying to find out was
not whether Kate would be glad to see Harry as a relief to her
loneliness, but whether she really LOVED him.
Some tone in his voice caught her ear. She turned her head quickly and
looked at him with wondering gaze, as if she would read his inmost
"You mean that he is coming, Uncle George--that Harry IS coming home!"
she exclaimed excitedly, the color ebbing from her cheeks.
"He is already here, Kate. He slept upstairs in his old room last night.
I expect him in any minute."
"Here!--in this room!" She was on her feet in an instant, her face
deathly pale, her whole frame shaking. Which way should she turn to
escape? To meet him face to face would bring only excruciating pain.
"Oh, why didn't you tell me, Uncle George!" she burst out. "I won't see
him! I can't!--not now--not here! Let me go home--let me think! No--
don't stop me!" and catching up her cape and parasol she was out the
door and down the steps before he could call her back or even realize
that she had gone.
Once on the pavement she looked nervously up and down the street,
gathered her pretty skirts tight in her hand and with the fluttered
flight of a scared bird darted across the park, dashed through her
swinging gate, and so on up to her bedroom.
There she buried her face in Mammy Henny's lap and burst into an agony
While all this had been going on upstairs another equally important
conference was taking place in Pawson's office below, where Harry at
Pawson's request had gone to meet Gadgem and talk over certain plans for
his uncle's future welfare. He had missed Kate by one of those trifling
accidents which often determine the destiny of nations and of men. Had
he, after attending to the business of the morning--(he had been down to
Marsh Market with Todd for supplies)--mounted the steps to see his
uncle instead of yielding to a sudden impulse to interview Pawson first
and his uncle afterward, he would have come upon Kate at the very moment
she was pouring out her heart to St. George.
But no such fatality or stroke of good fortune--whatever the gods had
in store for him--took place. On the contrary he proceeded calmly to
carry out the details of a matter of the utmost importance to all
concerned--one in which both Pawson and Gadgem were interested--(indeed
he had come at Pawson's suggestion to discuss its details with the
collector and himself):--all of which the Scribe promises in all honor
to reveal to his readers before the whole of this story is told.
Harry walked straight up to Gadgem:
"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Gadgem," he said in his manly, friendly
way. "You have been very good to my uncle, and I want to thank you both
for him and for myself," and he shook the little man's hand heartily.
Gadgem blushed. St. George's democracy he could understand; but why this
aristocrat--outcast as he had once been, but now again in favor--why
this young prince, the heir to Moorlands and the first young blood of
his time, should treat him as an equal, puzzled him; and yet, somehow,
his heart warmed to him as he read his sincerity in his eyes and voice.
"Thank you, sir--thank you very much, sir," rejoined Gadgem, with a
folding-camp-stool-movement, his back bent at right angles with his
legs. "I really don't deserve it, sir. Mr. Temple is an EXtraordinary
man, sir; the most EXtraordinary man I have ever met, sir. Give you the
shirt off his back, sir, and go NAked himself."
"Yes, he gave it to me," laughed Harry, greatly amused at the
collector's effusive manner: He had never seen this side of Gadgem.
"That, of course, you know all about--you paid the bills, I believe."
"PREcisely so, sir." He had lengthened out now with a spiral-spring,
cork-screw twist in his body, his index finger serving as point. "Paid
every one of them. He never cared, sir--he GLOried in it--GLOried in
being a pauper. UNaccountable, Mr. Rutter--Enormously unaccountable.
Never heard of such a case; never WILL hear of such a case. So what was
to be done, sir? Just what I may state is being done this minute over
our heads UPstairs": and out went the index finger. "Rest and
REcuperation, sir--a slow--a very slow use of AVAILable assets until new
and FURther AVAILable assets could become visible. And they are here,
sir--have arRIVED. You may have heard, of course, of the Patapsco where
Mr. Temple kept the largest part of his fortune."
"No, except that it about ruined everybody who had anything to do with
"Then you have heard nothing of the REsuscitation!" cried Gadgem, all
his fingers opened like a fan, his eyebrows arched to the roots of his
hair. "You surPRISE me! And you are really ignorant of the PHOEnix-like
way in which it has RISen from its ashes? I said RISen, sir, because it
is now but a dim speck in the financial sky. Nor the appointment of Mr.
John Gorsuch as manager, ably backed by your DIStinguished father--the
setting of the bird upon its legs--I'm speaking of the burnt bird, sir,
the PHOEnix. I'm quite sure it was a bird--Nor the payment on the first
of the ensuing month of some eighty per cent of the amounts due the
ORIGinal depositors and another twenty per cent in one year
thereafter--The cancelling of the mortgage which your most BEnevolent
and HONorable father bought, and the sly trick of Gorsuch--letting
Fogbin, who never turned up, become the sham tenant--and the joy--"
"Hold on Mr. Gadgem--I'm not good at figures. Give me that over again
and speak slower. Am I to understand that the bank will pay back to my
uncle, within a day or so, three-quarters of the money they stole from
"STOLE, sir!" chided Gadgem, his outstretched forefinger wig-wagging a
Fie! Fie! gesture of disapproval--"STOLE is not a pretty
word--actionable, sir--DANgerously actionable--a question of the
watch-house, and, if I might be permitted to say--a bit of COLD lead--
Perhaps you will allow me to suggest the word 'maNIPulated,' sir--the
money the bank maNIPulated from your confiding and inexperienced
uncle--that is safer and it is equally EXpressive. He! He!"
"Well, will he get the money?" cried Harry, his face lighting up, his
interest in the outcome outweighing his amusement over Gadgem's antics
"He WILL, sir," rejoined Gadgem decisively.
"And you are so sure of it that you would be willing to advance one-half
the amount if the account was turned over to you this minute?" cried
"No sir--not one-half--ALL of it--less a TRIfling commission for my
services of say one per cent. When you say 'this minute,' sir, I must
reply that the brevity of the area of action becomes a trifle ACUTE,
yes, ALARMingly acute. I haven't the money myself, sir--that is, not
about my person--but I can get it in an hour, sir--in less time, if Mr.
Temple is willing. That was my purpose in coming here, sir--that was why
Mr. Pawson sent for me, sir; and it is but fair to say that you can
thank your DIStinguished father for it all, sir--he has worked night and
day to do it. Colonel Rutter has taken over--so I am inFORMED--I'm not
sure, but I am inFORMED--taken over a lot of the securities himself so
that he COULD do it. Another EXtraordinary combination, if you will
permit me to say so--I refer to your father--a man who will show you his
door one minute and open his pocketbook and his best bottle of wine for
you the next," and he plunged himself down in his seat with so
determined a gesture that it left no question on Harry's mind that he
intended sitting it out until daylight should there be the faintest
possibility of his financial proposition being accepted.
Harry walked to the window and gazed out on the trees. There was no
doubt now that Mr. Temple was once more on his feet. "Uncle George will
go now to Moorlands," he said, decisively, in a low tone, speaking to
himself, his heart swelling with pride at this fresh evidence of his
father's high sense of honor--then he wheeled and addressed the
"Shall I tell Mr. Temple this news, about the Patapsco Bank, Mr.
"Yes, if you think best, Mr. Rutter. And I have another piece of good
news. This please do not tell Mr. Temple, not yet--not until it is
definitely settled. That old suit in Chancery has been decided, or will
be, so I learned this morning and decided in favor of the heir. You may
not have heard of it before, Gadgem," and he turned to the collector,
"but it is one of old General Dorsey Temple's left-overs. It has been in
the courts now some forty years. When this decision is made binding,"
here he again faced Harry--"Mr. Temple comes in for a considerable
Gadgem jumped to his feet and snapped his fingers rapidly. Had he sat on
a tack his rebound could not have been more sudden. This last was news
"SHORN lamb, sir!" he cried gleefully, rubbing his palms together, his
body tied into a double bow-knot. "Gentle breezes; bread upon the
waters! By jiminy, Mr. Rutter, if Mr. Temple could be born
again--figuratively, sir--and I could walk in upon him as I once did,
and find him at breakfast surrounded by all his comforts with Todd
waiting upon him--a very good nigger is Todd, sir--an exCEPtionally good
nigger--I'd--I'd--damn me, Mr. Rutter, I'd--well, sir, there's no
word--but John Gadgem, sir--well, I'll be damned if he wouldn't--" and
he began skipping about the room, both feet in the air, as if he was a
boy of twenty instead of a thin, shambling, badly put together bill
collector in an ill-fitting brown coat, a hat much the worse for wear,
and a red cotton handkerchief addicted to weekly ablutions.
As for Harry the glad news had cleared out wide spaces before him, such
as he had not looked through in years; leafy vistas, with glimpses of
sunlit meadows; shadow-flecked paths leading to manor-houses with summer
skies beyond. He, too, was on his feet, walking restlessly up and down.
Pawson and Gadgem again put their heads together, Harry stopping to
listen. Such expressions as "Certainly," "I think I can": "Yes, of
course it was there when I was last in his place," "Better see him
first," caught his ear.
At last he could stand it no longer. Dr. Teackle or no Dr. Teackle, he
would go upstairs, open the door softly, and if his uncle was awake
whisper the good news in his ear. If anybody had whispered any such
similar good news in his ear on any one of the weary nights he had lain
awake waiting for the dawn, or at any time of the day when he sat his
horse, his rifle across the pommel, it would have made another man of
If his uncle was awake!
He was not only awake, but he was very much alive.
"I've got a great piece of news for you, Uncle George!" Harry shouted in
a rollicking tone, his joy increasing as he noted his uncle's renewed
"So have I got a great piece of news for you!" was shouted back. "Come
in, you young rascal, and shut that door behind you. She isn't going to
marry Willits. Thrown him over--don't want him--don't love him--can't
love him--never did love him! She's just told me so. Whoop--hurrah! I
Dance, you dog, before I throw this chair at you!!"
There are some moments in a man's life when all language
fails;--pantomime moments, when one stares and tries to speak and stares
again. They were both at it--St. George waiting until Harry should
explode, and Harry trying to get his breath, the earth opening under
him, the skies falling all about his head.
"She told you so! When!" he gasped.
"Two minutes ago--you've just missed her! Where the devil have you been?
Why didn't you come in before?"
"Kate here--two minutes ago--what will I do?" Had he found himself at
sea in an open boat with both oars adrift he could not have been more
"DO! Catch her before she gets home! Quick!--just as you are--sailor
clothes and all!"
"But how will I know if--?"
"You don't have to know! Away with you, I tell you!"
And away he went--and if you will believe it, dear reader--without even
a whisper in his uncle's ears of the good news he had come to tell.
Ben let him in.
He came as an apparition, the old butler balancing the door in his hand,
as if undecided what to do, trying to account for the change in the
young man's appearance--the width of shoulders, the rough clothes, and
the determined glance of his eye.
"Fo' Gawd, it's Marse Harry!" was all he said when he could get his
"Yes, Ben--go and tell your mistress I am here," and he brushed past him
and pushed back the drawing-room door. Once inside he crossed to the
mantel and stood with his back to the hearth, his sailor's cap in his
hand, his eyes fixed on the door he had just closed behind him. Through
it would come the beginning or the end of his life. Ben's noiseless
entrance and exit a moment after, with his mistress's message neither
raised nor depressed his hopes. He had known all along she would not
refuse to see him: what would come after was the wall that loomed up.
She had not hesitated, nor did she keep him waiting. Her eyes were still
red with weeping, her hair partly dishevelled, when Ben found her--but
she did not seem to care. Nor was she frightened--nor eager. She just
lifted her cheek from Mammy Henny's caressing hand--pushed back the hair
from her face with a movement as if she was trying to collect her
thoughts, and without rising from her knees heard Ben's message to the
end. Then she answered calmly:
"Did you say Mr. Harry Rutter, Ben? Tell him I'll be down in a moment."
She entered with that same graceful movement which he loved so well--her
head up, her face turned frankly toward him, one hand extended in
"Uncle George told me you were back, Harry. It was very good of you to
come," and sank on the sofa.
It had been but a few steps to him--the space between the open door and
the hearth rug on which he stood--and it had taken her but a few seconds
to cross it, but in that brief interval the heavens had opened above
her. The old Harry was there--the smile--the flash in the eyes--the joy
of seeing her--the quick movement of his hand in gracious salute; then
there had followed a sense of his strength, of the calm poise of his
body, of the clearness of his skin. She saw, too, how much handsomer he
had grown,--and noted the rough sailor's clothes. How well they fitted
his robust frame! And the clear, calm eyes and finely cut features--no
shrinking from responsibility in that face; no faltering--the old ideal
of her early love and the new ideal of her sailor boy--the one Richard's
voice had conjured--welded into one personality!
"I heard you had just been in to see Uncle George, Kate, and I tried to
Not much: nothing in fact. Playwriters tell us that the dramatic
situation is the thing, and that the spoken word is as unimportant to
the play as the foot-lights--except as a means of illuminating the
"Yes--I have just left him, Harry. Uncle George looks very badly--don't
you think so? Is there anything very serious the matter? I sent Ben to
Dr. Teackle's, but he was not in his office."
He had moved up a chair and sat devouring every vibration of her lips,
every glance of her wondrous eyes--all the little movements of her
beautiful body--her dress--the way the stray strands of hair had
escaped to her shoulders. His Kate!--and yet he dare not touch her!
"No, he is not ill. He took a severe cold and only needs rest and a
little care. I am glad you went and--" then the pent-up flood broke
loose. "Are you glad to see me, Kate?"
"I am always glad to see you, Harry--and you look so well. It has been
nearly three years, hasn't it?" Her calmness was maddening; she spoke as
if she was reciting a part in which she had no personal interest.
"I don't know--I haven't counted--not that way. I have lain awake too
many nights and suffered too much to count by years. I count by--"
She raised her hand in protest: "Don't Harry--please don't. All the
suffering has not been yours!" The impersonal tone was gone--there was a
note of agony in her voice.
His manner softened: "Don't think I blame you, Kate. I love you too much
to blame you--you did right. The suffering has only done me good--I am a
different man from the one you once knew. I see life with a wider
vision. I know what it is to be hungry; I know, too, what it is to earn
the bread that has kept me alive. I came home to look after Uncle
George. When I go back I want to take him with me. I won't count the
years nor all the suffering I have gone through if I can pay him back
what I owe him. He stood by me when everybody else deserted me."
She winced a little at the thrust, as if he had touched some sore spot,
sending a shiver of pain through her frame, but she did not defend
"You mustn't take him away, Harry--leave Uncle George to me," not as if
she demanded it--more as if she was stating a fact.
"Why not? He will be another man out in Brazil--and he can live there
like a gentleman on what he will have left--so Pawson thinks."
"Because I love him dearly--and when he is gone I have nobody left," she
answered in a hopeless tone.
Harry hesitated, then he asked: "And so what Uncle George told me about
Mr. Willits is true?"
Kate looked at him furtively--as if afraid to read his thoughts and for
reply bowed her head in assent.
"Didn't he love you enough?" There was a certain reproach in his tone,
as if no one could love this woman enough to satisfy her.
"What was the matter then? Was it--" He stopped--his eagerness had led
him onto dangerous, if not discourteous, grounds. "No, you needn't
answer--forgive me for asking--I had no right. I am not myself, Kate--I
didn't mean to--"
"Yes, I'll tell you. I told Uncle George. I didn't like him well
enough--that's all." All this time she was looking him calmly in the
face. If she had done anything to be ashamed of she did not intend to
conceal it from her former lover.
"And will Uncle George take his place now that he's gone? Do you ever
know your own heart, Kate?" There was no bitterness in his question. Her
frankness had disarmed him of that. It was more in the nature of an
inquiry, as if he was probing for something on which he could build a
For a brief instant she made no answer; then she said slowly and with a
"If I had I would have saved myself and you a great deal of misery."
"And Langdon Willits?"
"No, he cannot complain--he does not--I promised him nothing. But I have
been so beaten about, and I have tried so hard to do right; and it has
all crumbled to pieces. As for you and me, Harry, let us both forget
that we have ever had any differences. I can't bear to think that
whenever you come home we must avoid each other. We were friends
once--let us be friends again. It was very kind of you to come. I'm glad
you didn't wait. Don't be bitter in your heart toward me."
Harry left his chair and settled down on the sofa beside her, and in
pleading, tender tones said:
"Kate--When was I ever bitter toward you in my heart? Look at me! Do you
realize how I love you?--Do you know it sets me half crazy to hear you
talk like that? I haven't come here to-day to reproach you--I have come
to do what I can to help you, if you want my help. I told you the last
time we talked in the park that I wouldn't stay in Kennedy Square a day
longer even if you begged me to. That is over now; I'll do now anything
you wish me to do; I'll go or I'll stay. I love you too much to do
"No, you don't love me!--you can't love me! I wouldn't let you love me
after all the misery I have caused you! I didn't know how much until I
began to suffer myself and saw Mr. Willits suffer. I am not worthy of
any man's love. I will never trust myself again--I can only try to be to
the men about me as Uncle George is to everyone. Oh, Harry!--
Harry!--Why was I born this way--headstrong wilful--never satisfied? Why
am I different from the other women?"
He tried to take her hand, but she drew it away.
"No!--not that!--not that! Let us be just as we were when--Just as we
used to be. Sit over there where I can see you better and watch your
face as you talk. Tell me all you have done--what you have seen and what
sort of places you have been in. We heard from you through--"
He squared his shoulders and faced her, his voice ringing clear, his
eyes flashing: something of the old Dutch admiral was in his face.
"Kate--I will have none of it! Don't talk such nonsense to me; I won't
listen. If you don't know your own heart I know mine; you've GOT to love
me!--you MUST love me! Look at me. In all the years I have been away
from you I have lived the life you would have me live--every request you
ever made of me I have carried out. I did this knowing you would never
be my wife and you would be Willits's! I did it because you were my
Madonna and my religion and I loved the soul of you and lived for you as
men live to please the God they have never seen. There were days and
nights when I never expected to see you or any one else whom I loved
again--but you never failed--your light never went out in my heart.
Don't you see now why you've got to love me? What was it you loved in me
once that I haven't got now? How am I different? What do I lack? Look
into my eyes--close--deep down--read my heart! Never, as God is my
judge, have I done a thing since I last kissed your forehead, that you
would have been ashamed of. Do you think, now that you are free, that I
am going back without you? I am not that kind of a man."
She half started from her seat: "Harry!" she cried in a helpless
tone--"you do not know what you are saying--you must not--"
He leaned over and took both her hands firmly in his own.
"Look at me! Tell me the truth--as you would to your God! Do you love
She made an effort to withdraw her hands, then she sank back.
"I--I--don't know--" she murmured.
"YOU DO--search again--way down in your heart. Go over every day we have
lived--when we were children and played together--all that horror at
Moorlands when I shot Willits--the night of Mrs. Cheston's ball when I
was drunk--all the hours I have held you in my arms, my lips to yours--
All of it--every hour of it--balance one against the other. Think of
your loneliness--not mine--yours--and then tell me you do not know! You
DO know! Oh, my God, Kate!--you must love me! What else would you want
a man to do for you that I have not done?"
He stretched out his arms, but she sprang to her feet and put out her
palms as a barrier.
"No. Let me tell you something. We must have no more
misunderstandings--you must be sure--I must be sure. I have no right to
take your heart in my hands again. It is I who have broken my faith with
you, not you with me. I was truly your wife when I promised you here on
the sofa that last time. I knew then that you would, perhaps, lose your
head again, and yet I loved you so much that I could not give you up.
Then came the night of your father's ball and all the misery, and I was
a coward and shut myself up instead of keeping my arms around you and
holding you up to the best that was in you, just as Uncle George begged
me to do. And when your father turned against you and drove you from
your home, all because you had tried to defend me from insult, I saw
only the disgrace and did not see the man behind it; and then you went
away and I stretched out my arms for you to come back to me and only
your words echoed in my ears that you would never come back to me until
you were satisfied with yourself. Then I gave up and argued it out and
said it was all over--"
He had left his seat and at every sentence had tried to take her in his
arms, but she kept her palms toward him.
"No, don't touch me! You SHALL hear me out; I must empty all my heart! I
was lonely and heart-sore and driven half wild with doubts and what
people said, my father worse than all of them. And Mr. Willits was kind
and always at my beck and call--and so thoughtful and attentive--and I
tried and tried--but I couldn't. I always had you before me--and you
haunted me day and night, and sometimes when he would come in that door
I used to start, hoping it might be you."
"It IS me, my darling!" he cried, springing toward her. "I don't want to
hear any more--I must--I will--"
"But you SHALL! There IS something more. It went on and on and I got so
that I did not care, and one day I thought I would give him my promise
and the next day all my soul rebelled against it and it was that way
until one night Mr. Horn read aloud a story--and it all came over me and
I saw everything plain as if it had been on a stage, and myself and you
and Mr. Willits--and what it meant--and what would come of it--and he
walked home with me and I told him frankly, and I have never seen him
since. And now here is the last and you must hear it out. There is not a
word I have said to him which I would recall--not a thing I am ashamed
of. Your lips were the last that touched my own. There, my darling, it
is all told. I love you with my whole heart and soul and mind and
body--I have never loved anybody else--I have tried and tried and
couldn't. I am so tired of thinking for myself,--so tired,--so tired.
Take me and do with me as you will!"
Again the plot is too strong for the dialogue. He had her fast in his
arms before her confession was finished. Then the two sank on the sofa
where she lay sobbing her heart out, he crooning over her--patting her
cheeks, kissing away the tears from her eyelids; smoothing the strands
of her hair with his strong, firm fingers. It was his Kate that lay in
his grasp--close--tightly pressed--her heart beating against his, her
warm, throbbing body next his own, her heart swept of every doubt and
care, all her will gone.
As she grew quiet she stretched up her hand, touching his cheek as if to
reassure herself that it was really her lover. Yes! It was Harry--HER
Harry--Harry who was dead and is alive again--to whom she had stripped
her soul naked--and who still trusted and loved her.
A little later she loosened herself from his embrace and taking his face
in her small, white hands looked long and earnestly into his eyes,
smoothing back the hair from his brow as she used to do; kissing him on
the forehead, on each eyelid, and then on the mouth--one of their
old-time caresses. Still remembering the old days, she threw back his
coat and let her hands wander over his full-corded throat and chest and
arms. How big and strong he had become! and how handsome he had
grown--the boy merged into the man. And that other something! (and
another and stronger thrill shot through her)--that other something
which seemed to flow out of him;--that dominating force that betokened
leadership, compelling her to follow--not the imperiousness of his
father, brooking no opposition no matter at what cost, but the
leadership of experience, courage, and self-reliance.
With this the sense of possession swept over her. He was all her own and
for ever! A man to lean upon; a man to be proud of; one who would listen
and understand: to whom she could surrender her last stronghold--her
will. And the comfort of it all; the rest, the quiet, the assurance of
everlasting peace: she who had been so torn and buffeted and heart-sore.
For many minutes she lay still from sheer happiness, thrilled by the
warmth and pressure of his strong arms. At last, when another thought
could squeeze itself into her mind, she said: "Won't Uncle George be
"Yes," he answered, releasing her just far enough to look into her eyes.
"It will make him well. You made him very happy this morning. His
troubles are over, I hear--he's going to get a lot of his money back."
"Oh, I'm so glad. And will we take him with us?" she asked wonderingly,
smoothing back his hair as she spoke.
"Take him where, darling?" he laughed.
"To where we are going--No, you needn't laugh--I mean it. I don't care
where we go," and she looked at him intently. "I'll go with you anywhere
in the world you say, and I'll start to-morrow."
He caught her again in his arms, kissed her for the hundredth time, and
then suddenly relaxing his hold asked in assumed alarm: "And what about
your father? What do you think he will say? He always thought me a
madcap scapegrace--didn't he?" The memory brought up no regret. He
didn't care a rap what the Honorable Prim thought of him.
"Yes--he thinks so now," she echoed, wondering how anybody could have
formed any such ideas of her Harry.
"Well, he will get over it when I talk with him about his coffee people.
Some of his agents out there want looking after."
"Oh!--how lovely, my precious; talking coffee will be much pleasanter
than talking me!--and yet we have got to do it somehow when he comes
And down went her head again, she nestling the closer as if terrified at
the thought of the impending meeting; then another kiss followed--dozens
of them--neither of them keeping count, and then--and then--
And then--Ben tapped gently and announced that dinner was served, and
Harry stared at the moon-faced dial and saw that it was long after two
o'clock, and wondered what in the world had become of the four hours
that had passed since he had rushed down from his uncle's and into
And so we will leave them--playing housekeeping--Harry pulling out her
chair, she spreading her dainty skirts and saying "Thank you, Mr.
Rutter--" and Ben with his face in so broad a grin that it got set that
way--Aunt Dinah, the cook, having to ask him three times "Was he
gwineter hab a fit" before he could answer by reason of the chuckle
which was suffocating him.
And now as we must close the door for a brief space on the happy
couple--never so happy in all their lives--it will be just as well for
us to find out what the mischief is going on at the club--for there is
something going on--and that of unusual importance.
Everybody is out on the front steps. Old Bowdoin is craning his short
neck, and Judge Pancoast is saying that it is impossible and then
instatly changing his mind, saying: "By jove it is!"--and Richard Horn
and Warfield and Murdoch are leaning over the balcony rail still
unconvinced and old Harding is pounding his fat thigh with his pudgy
hand in ill-concealed delight.
Yes--there is no doubt of it--hasn't been any doubt of it since the
judge shouted out the glad tidings which emptied every chair in the
club: Across the park, beyond the rickety, vine-covered fence and close
beside the Temple Mansion, stands a four-in-hand, the afternoon sun
flashing from the silver mountings of the harness and glinting on the
polished body and wheels of the coach. Then a crack of the whip, a wind
of the horn, and they are off--the leaders stretching the traces, two
men on the box, two grooms in the rear. Hurrah! Well, by thunder, who
would have believed it--that's Temple inside on the back seat! "There he
is waving his hand and Todd is with him. And yes! Why of course it's
Rutter! See him clear that curb! Not a man in this county can drive like
that but Talbot."
Round they come--the colonel straight as a whip--dusty-brown overcoat,
flowers in his buttonhole--bell-crowned hat, brown driving
gloves--perfectly appointed, even if he is a trifle pale and half blind.
More horn--a long joyous note now, as if they were heralding the peace
of the world, the colonel bowing like a grand duke as he passes the
assembled crowd--a gathering of the reins together, a sudden pull-up at
Seymours', everybody on the front porch--Kate peeping over Harry's
shoulder--and last and best of all, St. George's cheery voice ringing
"Where are you two sweethearts!" Not a weak note anywhere; regular
fog-horn of a voice blown to help shipwrecked mariners.
"All aboard for Moorlands, you turtle-doves--never mind your clothes,
Kate--nor you either, Harry. Your father will send for them later. Up
"All true, Harry," called back the colonel from the top of the coach
(nobody alighted but the grooms--there wasn't time--) "Your mother
wouldn't wait another hour and sent me for you, and Teackle said St.
George could go, and we bundled him up and brought him along and you are
all going to stay a month. No, don't wait a minute, Kate; I want to get
home before dark. One of my men will be in with the carryall and bring
out your mammy and your clothes and whatever you want. Your father is
away I hear, and so nobody will miss you. Get your heavy driving coat,
my dear; I brought one of mine in for Harry--it will be cold before we
get home. Matthew, your eyes are better than mine, get down and see what
the devil is the matter with that horse. No, it's all right--the
check-rein bothered him."
And so ended the day that had been so happily begun, and the night was
no less joyful with the mother's arms about her beloved boy and Kate on
a stool beside her and Talbot and St. George deep in certain
vintages--or perhaps certain vintages deep in Talbot and St.
George--especially that particular and peculiar old Madeira of 1800,
which his friend Mr. Jefferson had sent him from Monticello, and which
was never served except to some such distinguished guest as his highly
esteemed and well-beloved friend of many years, St. George Wilmot Temple
of Kennedy Square.
It would be delightful to describe the happy days at Moorlands during
St. George's convalescence, when the love-life of Harry and Kate was one
long, uninterrupted, joyous dream. When mother, father, and son were
again united--what a meeting was that, once she got her arms around her
son's neck and held him close and wept her heart out in
thankfulness!--and the life of the old-time past was revived--a life
softened and made restful and kept glad by the lessons all had learned.
And it would be more delightful still to carry the record of these
charming hours far into the summer had not St. George, eager to be under
his own roof in Kennedy Square, declared he could stay no longer.
Not that his welcome had grown less warm. He and his host had long since
unravelled all their difficulties, the last knot having been cut the
afternoon the colonel, urged on by Harry's mother--his disappointment
over his sons's coldness set at rest by her pleadings--had driven into
town for Harry in his coach, as has been said, and swept the whole
party, including St. George, out to Moorlands.
Various unrelated causes had brought about this much-to-be-desired
result, the most important being the news of the bank's revival, which
Harry, in his mad haste to overtake Kate, had forgotten to tell his
uncle, and which St. George learned half an hour later from Pawson,
together with a full account of what the colonel had done to bring about
the happy result--a bit of information which so affected Temple that,
when the coach with the colonel on the box had whirled up, he, weak as
he was, had struggled to the front door, both hands held out, in
"Talbot--old fellow," he had said with a tear in his voice, "I have
misunderstood you and I beg your pardon. You've behaved like a man, and
I thank you from the bottom of my heart!"
At which the stern old aristocrat had replied, as he took St. George's
two hands in his: "Let us forget all about it, St. George. I made a
damned fool of myself. We all get too cocky sometimes."
Then there had followed--the colonel listening with bated breath--St.
George's account of Kate's confession and Harry's sudden exit, Rutter's
face brightening as it had not done for years when he learned that Harry
had not yet returned from the Seymours', the day's joy being capped by
the arrival of Dr. Teackle, who had given his permission with an "All
right--the afternoon is fine and the air will do Mr. Temple a world of
good," and so St. George was bundled up and the reader knows the rest.
Later on--at Moorlands of course--the colonel, whose eyes were getting
better by the day and Gorsuch whose face was now one round continuous
smile, got to work, and had a heart-to-heart--or rather a
pocket-to-pocket talk--which was quite different in those days from what
it would be now--after which both Kate and Harry threw to the winds all
thoughts of Rio and the country contiguous thereto, and determined
instead to settle down at Moorlands. And then a great big iron door sunk
in a brick vault was swung wide and certain leather-bound books were
brought out--and particularly a sum of money which Harry duly handed
over to Pawson the next time he drove to town--(twice a week now)--and
which, when recounted, balanced to a cent the total of the bills which
Pawson had paid three years before, with interest added, a list of which
the attorney still kept in his private drawer with certain other
valuable papers tied with red tape, marked "St. G. W. T." And still
later on--within a week--there had come the news of the final settlement
of the long-disputed lawsuit with St. George as principal residuary
legatee--and so our long-suffering hero was once more placed upon his
financial legs: the only way he could have been placed upon them or
would have been placed upon them--a fact very well known to every one
who had tried to help him, his philosophy being that one dollar borrowed
is two dollars owed--the difference being a man's self-respect.
And it is truly marvellous what this change in his fortunes
accomplished. His slack body rounded out; his sunken cheeks plumped up
until every crease and crack were gone, his color regained its
freshness, his eyes their brilliancy; his legs took on their old-time
spring and lightness--and a wonderful pair of stand-bys, or stand-ups,
or stand-arounds they were as legs go--that is legs of a man of
And they were never idle, these legs: there was no sitting cross-legged
in a chair for St. George: he was not constructed along those lines.
Hardly a week had passed before he had them across Spitfire's mate; had
ridden to hounds; danced a minuet with Harry and Kate; walked half-way
to Kennedy Square and back--they thought he was going to walk all the
way and headed him off just in time; and best of all--(and this is
worthy of special mention)--had slipped them into the lower section of a
suit of clothes--and these his own, although he had not yet paid for
them--the colonel having liquidated their cost. These trousers, it is
just as well to state, had arrived months before from Poole, along with
a suit of Rutter's and the colonel had forwarded a draft for the whole
amount without examining the contents, until Alec had called his
attention to the absurd width of the legs--and the ridiculous spread of
the seat. My Lord of Moorlands, after the scene in the Temple Mansion,
dared not send them in to St. George, and they had accordingly lain ever
since on top of his wardrobe with Alec as chief of the Moth Department.
St. George, on his arrival, found them folded carefully and placed on a
chair--Todd chief valet. Whereupon there had been a good-natured row
when our man of fashion appeared at breakfast rigged out in all his
finery, everybody clapping their hands and saying how handsome he looked
--St. George in reply denouncing Talbot as a brigand of a Brummel who
had stolen his clothes, tried to wear them, and then when out of fashion
thrown them back on his hands.
All these, and a thousand other delightful things, it would, I say, be
eminently worth while to dilate upon--(including a series of whoops and
hand-springs which Todd threw against the rear wall of the big kitchen
five seconds after Alec had told him of the discomfiture of "dat
red-haided gemman," and of Marse Harry's good fortune)--were it not that
certain mysterious happenings are taking place inside and out of the
Temple house in Kennedy Square--happenings exciting universal comment,
and of such transcendent importance that the Scribe is compelled, much
against his will--for the present installment is entirely too short--to
confine their telling to a special chapter.
For some time back, then be it said, various strollers unfamiliar with
the neighbors or the neighborhood of Kennedy Square, poor benighted folk
who knew nothing of the events set down in the preceding chapters, had
nodded knowingly to each other or shaken their pates deprecatingly over
the passing of "another old landmark."
Some of these had gone so far as to say that the cause could be found in
the fact that Lawyer Temple had run through what little money his father
and grandmother had left him; additional wise-acres were of the opinion
that some out-of-town folks had bought the place and were trying to prop
it up so it wouldn't tumble into the street, while one, more facetious
than the others, had claimed that it was no wonder it was falling down,
since the only new thing Temple had put upon it was a heavy mortgage.
The immediate neighbors, however,--the friends of the house--had smiled
and passed on. They had no such forebodings. On the contrary nothing so
diverting--nothing so enchanting--had happened around Kennedy Square in
years. In fact, when one of these humorists began speaking about it,
every listener heard the story in a broad grin. Some of the more
hilarious even nudged each other in the waist-coats and ordered another
round of toddies--for two or three, or even five, if there were that
number of enthusiasts about the club tables. When they were asked what
it was all about they invariably shook their heads, winked, and kept
still--that is, if the question were put by some one outside the magic
circle of Kennedy Square.
All the general public knew was that men with bricks in hods had been
seen staggering up the old staircase with its spindle banisters and
mahogany rail; that additional operatives had been discovered clinging
to the slanting roof long enough to pass up to further experts grouped
about the chimneys small rolls of tin and big bundles of shingles; that
plasterers in white caps and aprons, with mortar-boards in one hand and
trowels in the other, had been seen chinking up cracks; while any number
of painters, carpenters, and locksmiths were working away for dear life
all over the place from Aunt Jemima's kitchen to Todd's bunk under the
In addition to all this curious wagons had been seen to back up to the
curb, from which had been taken various odd-looking bundles; these were
laid on the dining-room floor, a collection of paint pots, brushes, and
wads of putty being pushed aside to give them room--and with some haste
too, for every one seemed to be working overtime.
As to what went on inside the mansion itself not the most inquisitive
could fathom: no one being permitted to peer even into Pawson's office,
where so large a collection of household goods and gods were sprawled,
heaped, and hung, that it looked as if there had been a fire in the
neighborhood, and this room the only shelter for miles around. Even
Pawson's law books were completely hidden by the overflow and so were
the tables, chairs, and shelves, together with the two wide
Nor did it seem to matter very much to the young attorney as to how or
at what hours of the day or night these several articles arrived. Often
quite late in the evening--and this happened more than once--an old
fellow, pinched and wheezy, would sneak in, uncover a mysterious object
wrapped in a square of stringy calico, fumble in his pocket for a scrap
of paper, put his name at the bottom of it, and sneak out again five,
ten, or twenty dollars better off. Once, as late as eleven o'clock, a
fattish gentleman with a hooked nose and a positive dialect, assisted
another stout member of his race to slide a very large object from out
the tail of a cart. Whereupon there had been an interchange of wisps of
paper between Pawson and the fatter of the two men, the late visitors
bowing and smiling until they reached a street lantern where they
divided a roll of bank-notes between them.
And the delight that Pawson and Gadgem took in it all!--assorting,
verifying, checking off--slapping each other's backs in glee when some
doubtful find was made certain, and growing even more excited on the
days when Harry and Kate would drive or ride in from Moorlands--almost
every day of late--tie the horse and carry-all, or both saddle-horses,
to St. George's tree-boxes, and at once buckle on their armor.
This, rendered into common prose, meant that Harry, after a prolonged
consultation with Pawson and Gadgem, would shed his outer coat, the
spring being now far advanced, blossoms out and the weather warm--and
that Kate would tuck her petticoats clear of her dear little feet and go
pattering round, her sleeves rolled up as far as they would go, her
beautiful arms bare almost to her shoulders--her hair smothered in a
brown barege veil to keep out the dust--the most bewitching parlor-maid
you or anybody else ever laid eyes on. Then would follow such a carrying
up of full baskets and carrying down of empty ones; such a spreading of
carpets and rugs; such an arranging of china and glass; such a placing
of andirons, fenders, shovels, tongs, and bellows; hanging of pictures,
curtains, and mirrors--old and new; moving in of sofas, chairs, and
rockers; making up of beds with fluted frills on the pillows--a silk
patchwork quilt on St. George's bed and cotton counterpanes for Jemima
And the secrecy maintained by everybody! Pawson might have been stone
deaf and entirely blind for all the information you could twist out of
him--and a lot of people tried. And as to Gadgem--the dumbest oyster in
Cherrystone Creek was a veritable magpie when it came to his giving the
precise reason why the Temple Mansion was being restored from top to
bottom and why all its old furniture, fittings, and trappings--
(brand-new ones when they couldn't be found in the pawn shops or
elsewhere)--were being gathered together within its four walls. When
anybody asked Kate--and plenty of people did--she would throw her head
back and laugh so loud and so merrily and so musically, that you would
have thought all the birds in Kennedy Square park were still welcoming
the spring. When you asked Harry he would smile and wink and perhaps
keep on whispering to Pawson or Gadgem whose eyes were glued to a list
which had its abiding place in Pawson's top drawer.
Outside of these four conspirators--yes, six--for both Todd and Jemima
were in it, only a very few were aware of what was really being done.
The colonel of course knew, and so did Harry's mother--and so did old
Alec who had to clap his hand over his mouth to keep from snickering out
loud at the breakfast table when he accidentally overheard what was
going on--an unpardonable offence--(not the listening, but the
laughing). In fact everybody in the big house at Moorlands knew, for
Alec spread it broadcast in the kitchen and cabins--everybody EXCEPT
Not a word reached St. George--not a syllable. No one of the house
servants would have spoiled the fun, and certainly no one of the great
folks. It was only when his visit to Moorlands was over and he had
driven into town and had walked up his own front steps, that the true
situation in all its glory and brilliancy dawned upon him.
The polished knobs, knocker, and the perfect level and whiteness of the
marble steps first caught his eye; then the door swung open and Jemima
in white apron and bandanna stood bowing to the floor, Todd straight as
a ramrod in a new livery and a grin on his face that cut it in two, with
Kate and Harry hidden behind them, suffocating from suppressed laughter.
"Why, you dear Jemima! Howdy--... Why, who the devil sent that old
table back, Todd, and the hall rack and--What!" Here he entered the
dining-room. Everything was as he remembered it in the old days. "Harry!
Kate!--Why--" then he broke down and dropped into a chair, his eyes
still roaming around the room taking in every object, even the loving
cup, which Mr. Kennedy had made a personal point of buying back from the
French secretary, who was gracious enough to part with it when he
learned the story of its enforced sale--each and every one of
them--ready to spring forward from its place to welcome him!
"So this," he stammered out--"is what you have kept me up at Moorlands
for, is it? You never say a word to me--and--Oh, you children!--you
children! Todd, did you ever see anything like it?--my guns--and the
loving cup--and the clock, and--Come here you two blessed things and
let me get my arms around you! Kiss me, Kate--and Harry, my son--give
me your hand. No, don't say a word--don't mind me--I'm all knocked out
Down went his face in his hands and he in a heap in the chair; then he
stiffened and gave a little shiver to his elbows in the effort to keep
himself from going completely to pieces, and scrambled to his feet
again, one arm around Kate's neck, his free hand in Harry's.
Take me everywhere and show me everything. Todd, go and find Mr. Pawson
and see if Mr. Gadgem is anywhere around; they've had something to do
with this--" here his eyes took in Todd--"You damned scoundrel, who the
devil rigged you out in that new suit?"
"Marse Harry done sont me to de tailor. See dem buttons?--but dey ain't
nuthin' to what's on the top shelf--you'll bust yo'self wide open
a-laughin', Marse George, when ye sees what's in dar--you gotter come
wid me--please Mistis an' Marse Harry, you come too. Dis way--"
Todd was full to bursting. Had his grin been half an inch wider his ears
would have dropped off.
"An' fore ye look at dem shelves der's annuder thing I gotter tell
ye;--an' dat is dat the dogs--all fo' oh em is comin' in the mawnin'.
Mister Floyd's coach-man done tole me so," and with a jerk and a whoop,
completely ignoring his master's exclamation of joy over the return of
his beloved setters, the darky threw back the door of the little
cubby-hole of a room where the Black Warrior and his brethren had once
rested in peace, and pointed to a row of erect black bottles backed by
another of recumbent ones.
"Look at dat wine, will ye, Marse George," he shouted, "all racked up on
dern shelves? Dat come f'om Mister Talbot Rutter wid dis yere cyard--"
and he handed it out.
St. George reached over, took it from his hand, and read it aloud:
"With the compliments of an old friend, who sends you herewith a few
bottles of the Jefferson and some Sercial and old Port--and a basket or
two of Royal Brown Sherry--nothing like your own, but the best he could
Soon the newly polished and replated knocker began to get in its
liveliest work: "Mrs. Richard Horn's compliments, and would St. George
be pleased to accept a basket of Maryland biscuit and a sallylunn just
out of the oven." Mrs. Bowdoin's compliments with three brace of
ducks--"a little late in the season, my dear St. George, but they are
just up from Currytuck where Mr. Bowdoin has had extremely good luck
--for Mr. Bowdoin." "Mrs. Cheston's congratulations, and would Mr.
Temple do her the honor of placing on his sideboard an old Accomack
County ham which her cook had baked that morning and which should have
all the charm and flavor of the State which had given him birth--" and
last a huge basket of spring roses from Miss Virginia Clendenning,
accompanied by a card bearing the inscription--"You don't deserve them,
you renegade," and signed--"Your deserted and heart-broken sweetheart."
All of which were duly spread out on the sideboard, together with one
lone bottle to which was attached an envelope.
Before the day was over half the club had called--Richard acting master
of ceremonies--Kate and old Prim--(he seemed perfectly contented with
the way everything had turned out)--doing the honors with St. George.
Pawson had also put in an appearance and been publicly thanked--a mark
of St. George's confidence and esteem which doubled his practice before
the year was out, and Gadgem--
No, Gadgem did not put in an appearance. Gadgem got as far as the hall
and looked in, and, seeing all the great people thronging about St.
George, would have sneaked out again to await some more favorable
occasion had not Harry's sharp eyes discovered the top of his scraggly
head over the shoulders of some others, and darted towards him, and when
he couldn't be made to budge, had beckoned to St. George, who came on a
run and shook Gadgem's hand so heartily and thanked him in so loud a
voice--(everybody in the hall heard him)--that he could only sputter--
"Didn't do a thing, sir--no, sir--and if I--" and then, overwhelmed,
shot out of the door and down the steps and into Pawson's office where
he stood panting, saying to himself--"I'll be tuckered if I ain't
happier than I--yes--by Jingo, I am. JIMminy-CRIMminy what a man he is!"
And so the day passed and the night came and the neighbors took their
leave, and Harry escorted Kate back to Seymours' and the tired knocker
gave out and fell asleep, and at last Todd said good-night and stole
down to Jemima, and St. George found himself once more in his easy
chair, his head in his hand, his eyes fixed on the dead coals of a past
As the echo of Todd's steps faded away and he began to realize that he
was alone, there crept over him for the first time in years the
comforting sense that he was once more under his own roof--his again and
all that it covered--all that he loved; even his beloved dogs. He left
his chair and with a quick indrawing of his breath, as if he had just
sniffed the air from some open sea, stretched himself to his full
height. There he stood looking about him, his shapely fingers patting
his chest; his eyes wandering over the room, first with a sweeping
glance, and then resting on each separate object as it nodded to him
under the glow of the candles.
He had come into his possessions once more. Not that the very belongings
made so much difference as his sense of pride in their ownership. They
had, too, in a certain way regained for him his freedom--freedom to go
and come and do as he pleased untrammelled by makeshifts and humiliating
exposures and concealments. Best of all, they had given him back his
courage, bracing the inner man, strengthening his beliefs in his
traditions and in the things that his race and blood stood for.
Then as a flash of lightning reveals from out black darkness the
recurrent waves of a troubled sea, there rushed over him the roll and
surge of the events which had led up to his rehabilitation. Suddenly a
feeling of intense humiliation and profound gratitude swept through him.
He raised his arms, covered his face with his hands, and stood swaying;
forcing back his tears; muttering to himself: "How good they have
been--how good, how good! All mine once more--wonderful--wonderful!"
With a resolute bracing of his shoulders and a brave lift of his chin,
he began a tour of the room, stopping before each one of his beloved
heirlooms and treasures--his precious gun that Gadgem had given up--(the
collector coveted it badly as a souvenir, and got it the next day from
St. George, with his compliments)--the famous silver loving cup with an
extra polish Kirk had given it; his punch bowl--scarf rings and
knick-knacks and the furniture and hangings of various kinds. At last he
reached the sideboard, and bending over reread the several cards affixed
to the different donations--Mrs. Cheston's, Mrs. Horn's, Miss
Clendenning's, and the others. His eye now fell on the lone bottle--this
he had not heretofore noticed--and the note bearing Mr. Kennedy's
signature. "I send you back, St. George, that last bottle of old
Madeira, the Black Warrior of 1810--the one you gave me and which we
were to share together. I hadn't the heart to drink my half without you
and so here is the whole and my warmest congratulations on your
home-coming and long life to you!"
Picking up the quaint bottle, he passed his hand tenderly over its
crusted surface, paused for an instant to examine the cork, and held it
closer to the light that he might note its condition. There he stood
musing, his mind far away, his fingers caressing its sides. All the
aroma of the past; all the splendor of the old regime--all its
good-fellowship, hospitality, and courtesy--that which his soul
loved--lay imprisoned under his hand. Suddenly one of his old-time
quizzical smiles irradiated his face: "By Jove!--just the thing!" he
cried joyously, "it will take the place of the one Talbot didn't open!"
With a mighty jerk of the bell cord he awoke the echoes below stairs.
Todd came on the double quick:
"Yes, Marse George."
"Todd, here's the last bottle of the 1810. Lay it flat on the top shelf
with the cork next the wall. We'll open it at Mr. Harry's wedding."