“Yes, yes,” replied Mr. Kemble, yielding to irritation in his deep perplexity, “the more matter-of-fact we are the better we’re off. I suppose the best thing to do is just to face what happens and try to be brave.”
“Well, papa, what’s happened to annoy you to-night? Is this sick man going to make you trouble?”
“Like enough. I hope not. At any rate, he has claims which I must meet.”
“Don’t you think you can meet them?” was her next anxious query, her mind reverting to some financial obligation.
“We’ll see. You and mother’ll have to help me out, I guess. I’ll tell you both when we get home;” and his sigh was so deep as to be almost a groan.
“Papa,” said Helen, earnestly pressing his arm, “don’t worry. Mamma and I will stand by you; so will Hobart. He is the last one in the world to desert one in any kind of trouble.”
“I know that, no one better; but I fear he’ll be in deeper trouble than any of us. The exasperating thing is that there should be any trouble at all. If it had only happened before—well, well, I can’t talk here in the street. As you say, you must stand by me, and I’ll do the best I can by you and all concerned.”
“Oh, papa, there was good cause for my foreboding.”
“Well, yes, and no. I don’t know. I’m at my wits’ end. If you’ll be brave and sensible, you can probably do more than any of us.”
“Papa, papa, something is the matter with Hobart,” and she drew him hastily into the house, which they had now reached.
Mrs. Kemble met them at the door. Alarmed at her husband’s troubled face, she exclaimed anxiously, “Who is this man? What did he want?”
“Come now, mother, give me a chance to get my breath. We’ll close the doors, sit down, and talk it all over.”
Mrs. Kemble and her daughter exchanged an apprehensive glance and followed with the air of being prepared for the worst.
The banker sat down and wiped the perspiration from his brow, then looked dubiously at the deeply anxious faces turned toward him. “Well,” he said, “I’m going to tell you everything as far as I understand it. Now I want to see if you two can’t listen calmly and quietly and not give way to useless feeling. There’s much to be done, and you especially, Helen, must be in the right condition to do it.”
“Oh, papa, why torture me so? Something has happened to Hobart. I can’t endure this suspense.”
“Something has happened to us all,” replied her father, gravely. “Hobart has acted like a hero, like a saint; so must you. He is as well and able to go about as you are. I’ve seen him and talked with him.”
“He saw you and not me?” cried the girl, starting up.
“Helen, I entreat, I command you to be composed and listen patiently. Don’t you know him well enough to be sure he had good reasons—”
“I can’t imagine a reason,” was the passionate reply, as she paced the floor. “What reason could keep me from him? Merciful Heaven! father, have you forgotten that I was to marry him to-day? Well,” she added hoarsely, standing before him with hands clinched in her effort at self-restraint, “the reason?”