“Very charitable in you, Richard,” exclaimed Pancoast, another dissenter—“and perhaps it will be just as well for his family, if he has any, to accept your view—but, devil or no devil, you must confess, Horn, that it was pretty hard on St. George. If the man has any sense of refinement—and he must have from the way he writes—the best way out of it is for him to own up like a man and say that Guy’s barkeeper filled him too full of raw whiskey, and that he didn’t come to until it was too late—that he was very sorry, and wouldn’t do it again. That’s what I would have done, and that’s what you, Richard, or any other gentleman, would have done.”
Others, who got their information second hand, followed the example of St. George’s guests censuring or excusing the poet in accordance with their previous likes or dislikes. The “what-did-I-tell-yous”—Bowdoin among them—and there were several—broke into roars of laughter when they learned what had happened in the Temple mansion. So did those who had not been invited, and who still felt some resentment at St. George’s oversight.
Another group; and these were also to be found at the club—thought only of St. George—old Murdock, voicing their opinions when he said: “Temple laid himself out, so I hear, on that dinner, and some of us know what that means. And a dinner like that, remember, counts with St. George. In the future it will be just as well to draw the line at poets as well as actors.”
The Lord of Moorlands had no patience with any of their views. Whether Poe was a drunkard or not did not concern him in the least. What did trouble him was the fact that St. George’s cursed independence had made him so far forget himself and his own birth and breeding as to place a chair at his table for a man in every way beneath him. Hospitality of that kind was understandable in men like Kennedy and Latrobe—one the leading literary light of his State, whose civic duties brought him in contact with all classes—the other a distinguished man of letters as well as being a poet, artist, and engineer, who naturally touched the sides of many personalities. So, too, might Richard Horn be excused for stretching the point—he being a scientist whose duty it was to welcome to his home many kinds of people—this man Morse among them, with his farcical telegraph; a man in the public eye who seemed to be more or less talked about in the press, but of whom he himself knew nothing, but why St. George Temple, who in all probability had never read a line of Poe’s or anybody else’s poetry in his life, should give this sot a dinner, and why such sane gentlemen as Seymour, Clayton, and Pancoast should consider it an honor to touch elbows with him, was as unaccountable as it was incredible.
Furthermore—and this is what rankled deepest in his heart—St. George was subjecting his only son, Harry, to corrupting influences, and at a time, too, when the boy needed the uplifting examples of all that was highest in men and manners.