He was all the more offensive to the judge because he was himself to blame for their acquaintance, which began when one day the fellow had called after him in the street, and then followed down the shady sidewalk beside him to his hour, wanting to know what this was he had heard about his history, and pleading for more light upon his plan in it. At the gate he made a flourish of opening and shutting it for the judge, and walking up the path to his door he kept his hand on the judge’s shoulder most offensively; but in spite of this Kenton had the weakness to ask him in, and to call Ellen to get him the most illustrative documents of the history.
The interview that resulted in the ‘Intelligencer’ was the least evil that came of this error. Kenton was amazed, and then consoled, and then afflicted that Ellen was not disgusted with it; and in his conferences with his wife he fumed and fretted at his own culpable folly, and tried to get back of the time he had committed it, in that illusion which people have with trouble that it could somehow be got rid of if it could fairly be got back of; till the time came when his wife could no longer share his unrest in this futile endeavor.
She said, one night when they had talked late and long, “That can’t be helped now; and the question is what are we going to do to stop it.”
The judge evaded the point in saying, “The devil of it is that all the nice fellows are afraid of her; they respect her too much, and the very thing which ought to disgust her with this chap is what gives him his power over her. I don’t know what we are going to do, but we must break it off, somehow.”
“We might take her with us somewhere,” Mrs. Kenton suggested.
“Run away from the fellow? I think I see myself! No, we have got to stay and face the thing right here. But I won’t have him about the house any more, understand that. He’s not to be let in, and Ellen mustn’t see him; you tell her I said so. Or no! I will speak to her myself.” His wife said that he was welcome to do that; but he did not quite do it. He certainly spoke to his daughter about her, lover, and he satisfied himself that there was yet nothing explicit between them. But she was so much less frank and open with him than she had always been before that he was wounded as well as baffled by her reserve. He could not get her to own that she really cared for the fellow; but man as he was, and old man as he was, he could not help perceiving that she lived in a fond dream of him.
He went from her to her mother. “If he was only one-half the man she thinks he is!”—he ended his report in a hopeless sigh.
“You want to give in to her!” his wife pitilessly interpreted. “Well, perhaps that would be the best thing, after all.”
“No, no, it wouldn’t, Sarah; it would be the easiest for both of us, I admit, but it would be the worst thing for her. We’ve got to let it run along for a while yet. If we give him rope enough he may hang himself; there’s that chance. We can’t go away, and we can’t shut her up, and we can’t turn him out of the house. We must trust her to find him out for herself.”