Before this important event took place, however, there were some matters which he intended to look after himself, one of them being the bowl of punch and its contiguous beverages in the colonel’s den. This seemed to be the storm centre to-night, and here he determined, even at the risk of offending his host, to set up danger-signals at the first puff of wind. The old fellows, if they chose, might empty innumerable ladles full of apple toddy or compounds of Santa Cruz rum and pineapples into their own persons, but not the younger bloods! His beloved Kate had suffered enough because of these roysterers. There should be one ball around Kennedy Square in which everybody would behave themselves, and he did not intend to mince his words when the time came. He had discussed the matter with the colonel when the ball opened, but little encouragement came from that quarter.
“So far as these young sprigs are concerned, St. George,” Rutter had flashed back, “they must look out for themselves. I can’t curtail my hospitality to suit their babyships. As for Harry, you’re only wasting your time. He is made of different stuff—it’s not in his blood and couldn’t be. Whatever else he may become he will never be a sot. Let him have his fling: once a Rutter, always a Rutter,” and then, with a ring in his voice, “when my son ceases to be a gentleman, St. George, I will show him the door, but drink will never do it.”
Dr. Teackle had also been on the alert. He was a young physician just coming into practice, many of the younger set being his patients, and he often acted as a curb when they broke loose. He, with St. George’s whispered caution in his ears, had also tried to frame a word of protest to the colonel, suggesting in the mildest way that that particular bowl of apple toddy be not replenished—but the Lord of the Manor had silenced him with a withering glance before he had completed his sentence. In this dilemma he had again sought out St. George.
“Look out for Willits, Uncle George. He’ll be staggering in among the ladies if he gets another crack at that toddy. It’s an infernal shame to bring these relays of punch in here. I tried to warn the colonel, but he came near eating me up. Willits has had very little experience in this sort of thing and is mixing his eggnog with everything within his reach. That will split his head wide open in the morning.”
“Go and find him, Teackle, and bring him to me,” cried St. George; “I’ll stay here until you get him. Tell him I want to see him—and Alec”—this to the old butler who was skimming past, his hands laden with dishes—“don’t you bring another drop of punch into this room until you see me.”
“But de colonel say dat—”