“I could forgive him for that,” exclaimed the judge—“some of his best work, I hear, has been done on the spur of the moment—and you should forgive him too, Clayton—unbeliever and iconoclast as you are—and you would forgive him if you knew as much about new poetry as you do about old port.”
Clayton’s stout body shook with laughter. “My dear Pancoast,” he cried, “you do not know what you are talking about. No man living or dead should be forgiven who keeps a woodcock on the spit five minutes over time. Forgive him! Why, my dear sir, your poet ought to be drawn and quartered, and what is left of him boiled in oil. Where shall I sit, St. George?”
“Alongside of Latrobe. Kennedy, I shall put you next to Poe’s vacant chair—he knows and loves you best. Seymour, will you and Richard take your places alongside of Pancoast, and Harry, will you please sit opposite Mr. Kennedy?”
And so the dinner began.
Whether it was St. George’s cheery announcement: “Well, gentlemen, I am sorry, but we still have each other, and so we will remember our guest in our hearts even if we cannot have his charming person,” or whether it was that the absence of Poe made little difference when a dinner with St. George was in question—certain it is that before many moments the delinquent poet was for the most part forgotten.
As the several dishes passed in review, Malachi in charge of the small arms—plates, knives, and forks—and Todd following with the heavier guns—silver platters and the like—the talk branched out to more diversified topics: the new omnibuses which had been allowed to run in the town; the serious financial situation, few people having recovered from the effects of the last great panic; the expected reception to Mr. Polk; the new Historical Society, of which every one present was a member except St. George and Harry; the successful experiments which the New York painter, a Mr. Morse, was making in what he was pleased to call Magnetic Telegraphy, and the absurdity of his claim that his invention would soon come into general use—every one commenting unfavorably except Richard Horn:—all these shuttlecocks being tossed into mid-air for each battledore to crack, and all these, with infinite tact the better to hide his own and his companions’ disappointment over the loss of his honored guest—did St. George keep on the move.
With the shifting of the cloth and the placing of the coasters—the nuts, crusts of bread, and finger-bowls being within easy reach—most of this desultory talk ceased. Something more delicate, more human, more captivating than sport, finance, or politics; more satisfying than all the poets who ever lived, filled everybody’s mind. Certain Rip Van Winkles of bottles with tattered garments, dust-begrimed faces, and cobwebs in their hair were lifted tenderly from the side-board and awakened to