Todd answered his knock on his return, and in reply to his inquiry informed him that he must not sit up, as “Marse George” had left word that he would be detained until late at a meeting of the creditors of the bank.
And so the unhappy lad, his supper over, sought his bed and, as had occurred more than once before, spent the earlier hours of the night gazing at the ceiling and wondering what would become of him.
With the breaking of the dawn Harry’s mind was made up. Before the sun was an hour high he had dressed hurriedly, stolen downstairs so as to wake no one, and closing the front door softly behind him had taken the long path through the park in the direction of the wharves. Once there, he made the rounds of the shipping offices from Light Street wharf to the Falls—and by the time St. George had finished dressing—certainly before he was through his coffee—had entered the name of Henry Rutter on two sets of books—one for a position as supercargo and the other, should nothing better be open, as common seaman. All he insisted upon was that the ship should sail at once. As to the destination, that was of no consequence, nor did the length of the voyage make any difference. He remembered that his intimate friend, Gilbert, had some months before gone as supercargo to China, his father wanting him to see something of the world; and if a similar position were open he could, of course, give references as to his character—a question the agent asked him—but, then, Gilbert had a father to help him. Should no such position be available, he would ship before the mast, or serve as cook or cabin-boy, or even scullion—but he would not live another day or hour dependent on his dear Uncle George, who had impoverished himself in his behalf.
He selected the sea instead of going into the army as a common soldier because the sea had always appealed to him. He loved its freedom and its dangers. Then again, he was young and strong—could climb like a cat—sail a boat—swim—Yes!—the sea was the place! He could get far enough away behind its horizons to hide the struggle he must make to accomplish the one purpose of his life—the earning of his debt.
Filled with this idea he began to perfect his plans, determining to take no one into his confidence until the day before the ship was ready to sail. He would then send for his mother and Alec—bring them all down to St. George’s house and announce his intention. That was the best and wisest way. As for Kate—who had now been at home some weeks—he would pour out his heart to her in a letter. This was better than an interview, which she would doubtless refuse:—a letter she would be obliged to read and, perhaps, answer. As for his dear Uncle George—it would be like tearing his heart out to leave him, but this wrench had to be met and it was best to do it quickly and have done with it.