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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKennedy Square - Chapter 30
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Kennedy Square - Chapter 30 Post by :beetee Category :Long Stories Author :Francis Hopkinson Smith Date :May 2012 Read :2822

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Kennedy Square - Chapter 30

CHAPTER XXX

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 mouth open.

"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 welcome.

"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 overtake you."

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 situation.

"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 herself.

"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.

"Yes."

"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 hope.

For a brief instant she made no answer; then she said slowly and with a certain positiveness:

"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 anything else."

"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 me?"

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 glad, Harry?"

"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 home."

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 Kate's arms.

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 out:

"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 with you."

"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.

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CHAPTER XXXIIt 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
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CHAPTER XXIXThe 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
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