Bittridge laughed, as if in amusement at what he had done. “Judge, let me say two words to you in private! If you can’t now, tell me when you can. We’re going back this evening, mother and I are; she isn’t well, and I’m not going to take her to Washington. I don’t want to go leaving you with the idea that I wanted to insult Miss Ellen. I care too much for her. I want to see you and Mrs. Kenton about it. I do, indeed. And won’t you let me see you, somewhere?”
Kenton looked away, first to one side and then to another, and seemed stifling.
“Won’t you speak to me! Won’t you answer me? See here! I’d get down on my knees to you if it would do you any good. Where will you talk with me?”
“Nowhere!” shouted Kenton. “Will you go away, or shall I strike you with my stick?”
“Oh, I don’t think,” said Bittridge, and suddenly, in the wantonness of his baffled effrontery, he raised his hand and rubbed the back of it in the old man’s face.
Boyne Kenton struck wildly at him, and Bittridge caught the boy by the arm and flung him to his knees on the marble floor. The men reading in the arm-chairs about started to their feet; a porter came running, and took hold of Bittridge. “Do you want an officer, Judge Kenton?” he panted.
“No, no!” Kenton answered, choking and trembling. “Don’t arrest him. I wish to go to my rooms, that’s all. Let him go. Don’t do anything about it.”
“I’ll help you, judge,” said the porter. “Take hold of this fellow,” he said to two other porters who came up. “Take him to the desk, and tell the clerk he struck Judge Kenton, but the judge don’t want him arrested.”
Before Kenton reached the elevator with Boyne, who was rubbing his knees and fighting back the tears, he heard the clerk’s voice saying, formally, to the porters, “Baggage out of 35 and 37” and adding, as mechanically, to Bittridge: “Your rooms are wanted. Get out of them at once!”
It seemed the gathering of neighborhood about Kenton, where he had felt himself so unfriended, against the outrage done him, and he felt the sweetness of being personally championed in a place where he had thought himself valued merely for the profit that was in him; his eyes filled, and his voice failed him in thanking the elevator-boy for running before him to ring the bell of his apartment.
The next day, in Tuskingum, Richard, Kenton found among the letters of his last mail one which he easily knew to be from his sister Lottie, by the tightly curled-up handwriting, and by the unliterary look of the slanted and huddled address of the envelope: The only doubt he could have felt in opening it was from the unwonted length at which she had written him; Lottie usually practised a laconic brevity in her notes, which were suited to the poverty of her written vocabulary rather than the affluence of her spoken word.