“That makes no difference; that does not relieve my son.”
Rutter had now become aware of Harry’s presence. So had the others, who turned their heads in the boy’s direction, but no one spoke. They had not the lifelong friendship that made St. George immune, and few of them would have dared to disagree with Talbot Rutter in anything.
“And now, sir”—here the colonel made a step towards where Harry stood, the words falling as drops of water fall on a bared head—“I have sent for you to tell you just what I have told these gentlemen. I have informed them openly because I do not wish either my sense of honor or my motives to be misunderstood. Your performances to-night have been so dastardly and so ill-bred as to make it impossible for me ever to live under the same roof with you again.” Harry started and his lips parted as if to speak, but he made no sound. “You have disgraced your blood and violated every law of hospitality. Mr. Willits should have been as safe here as you would have been under his father’s roof. If he misbehaved himself you could have ordered his carriage and settled the affair next day, as any gentleman of your standing would have done. I have sent for a conveyance to take you wherever you may wish to go.” Then, turning to St. George, “I must ask you, Temple, to fill my place and see that these gentlemen get their proper carriages, as I must join Mrs. Rutter, who has sent for me. Good-night,” and he strode from the room.
Harry stared blankly into the faces of the men about him: first at St. George and then at the others—one after another—as if trying to read what was passing in their minds. No one spoke or moved. His father’s intentions had evidently been discussed before the boy’s arrival and the final denunciation had, therefore, been received with less of the deadening effect than it had produced on himself. Nor was it a surprise to old Alec, who despite his fears had followed Harry noiselessly into the room, and who had also overheard the colonel’s previous outbreak as to his intended disposition of his young master.
St. George, who during the outburst had stood leaning against the mantel, his eyes riveted on Harry, broke the silence.
“That, gentlemen,” he exclaimed, straightening to his feet, one hand held high above his head, “is the most idiotic and unjust utterance that ever fell from Talbot Rutter’s lips! and one he will regret to his dying day. This boy you all know—most of you have known him from childhood, and you know him, as I do, to be the embodiment of all that is brave and truthful. He is just of age—without knowledge of the world, his engagement to Kate Seymour, as some of you are aware, was to be made known to-night. Willits was drunk or he would not have acted as he did. I saw it coming and tried to stop him. That he was drunk was Rutter’s own fault, with his damned notions of drowning everybody in drink every minute of the day and night. I saw the whole affair