“As to Harry’s being a burden,” St. George said slowly, his lip curling slightly—“that is my affair. As to his remaining here, all I have to say is that if a boy is old enough to be compelled to pay his debts he is old enough to decide where he will live. You have yourself established that rule and it will be carried out to the letter.”
Rutter’s face hardened: “But you haven’t got a dollar in the world to spare!”
“That may be, but it doesn’t altar the situation; it rather strengthens it.” He rose from his chair: “I think we are about through now, Talbot, and if you will excuse me I’ll go down to the bank and see what is the matter. I will ring for Todd to bring your hat and coat.” He did not intend to continue the talk. There had just been uncovered to him a side of Talbot Rutter’s nature which had shocked him as much as had the threatened loss of his money. To use his poverty as a club to force him into a position which would be dishonorable was inconceivable in a man as well born as his antagonist, but it was true: he could hardly refrain from telling him so. He had missed, it may be said, seeing another side—his visitor’s sympathy for him in his misfortune. That, unfortunately, he did not see: fate often plays such tricks with us all.
The colonel stepped in front of him: his eyes had an ugly look in them—the note of sympathy was gone.
“One moment, St. George! How long you are going to keep up this fool game, I don’t know; but my son stays here on one condition, and on one condition only, and you might as well understand it now. From this time on I pay his board. Do you for one instant suppose I am going to let you support him, and you a beggar?”
St. George made a lunge toward the speaker as if to strike him. Had Rutter fired point-blank at him he could not have been more astounded. For an instant he stood looking into his face, then whirled suddenly and swung wide the door.
“May I ask you, Talbot, to leave the room, or shall I? You certainly cannot be in your senses to make me a proposition like that. This thing has got to come to an end, and now! I wish you good-morning.”
The colonel lifted his hands in a deprecatory way.
“As you will, St. George.”
And without another word the baffled autocrat strode from the room.
There was no one at home when Harry returned except Todd, who, having kept his position outside the dining-room door during the heated encounter, had missed nothing of the interview. What had puzzled the darky—astounded him really—was that no pistol-shot had followed his master’s denouncement and defiance of the Lord of Moorlands. What had puzzled him still more was hearing these same antagonists ten minutes later passing the time o’ day, St. George bowing low and the colonel touching his hat as he passed out and down to where Matthew and his horses were waiting.