“Of course he hasn’t paid him—but I have. That is, a friend of mine has—or will.”
“You have!” cried Harry with a start. He was interested now—not for himself, but for St. George: no penny of his uncle’s should ever go to pay his debts. “Where did the money come from?”
“Never you mind where the money came from. You found it for Gilbert—did he ask you where you got it? Why should you ask me?”
“Well, I won’t; but you are mighty good to me, Uncle George, and I am very grateful to you.” The relief was not overwhelming, for the burden of the debt had not been heavy. It was only the sting of his father’s refusal that had hurt. He had always believed that the financial tangle would be straightened out somehow.
“No!—damn it!—you are not grateful. You sha’n’t be grateful!” cried St. George with a boyish laugh, seating himself that he might fill his pipe the better from a saucer of tobacco on the table. “If you were grateful it would spoil it all. What you can do, however, is to thank your lucky stars that that greasy red pocket-handkerchief will never be aired in your presence again. And there’s another thing you can be thankful for now that you are in a thankful mood, and that is that Mr. Poe will be at Guy’s to-morrow, and wants to see me.” He had finished filling the pipe bowl, and had struck a match.
The boy’s eyes danced. Gadgem, his father, his debts, everything—was forgotten.
“Oh, I’m so glad! How do you know?”
“Here’s a letter from him.” (Puff-puff.)
“And can I see him?”
“Of course you can see him! We will have him to dinner, my boy! Here comes Todd with your coffee. Take my seat so I can talk to you while I smoke.”
Although St. George dispensed his hospitality without form or pretence, never referring to his intended functions except in a casual way, the news of so unusual a dinner to so notorious a man as Edgar Allan Poe could not long be kept quiet.
While a few habitues occupying the arm-chairs on the sidewalk of the club were disappointed at not being invited,—although they knew that ten guests had always been St. George’s limit,—others expressed their disapproval of the entire performance with more than a shrug of the shoulders. Captain Warfleld was most outspoken. “Temple,” he said, “like his father, is a law unto himself, and always entertains the queerest kind of people; and if he wants to do honor to a man of that stamp, why that, of course, is his business, not mine.” At which old Tom Purviance had blurted out—“And a shiftless vagabond too, Warfield, if what I hear is true. Fine subject for St. George to waste his Madeira on!” Purviance had never read a dozen lines of anybody’s poetry in his life, and looked upon all literary men as no better than play actors.
It was then that Richard Horn, his eyes flashing, had retorted: