When this last thought took possession a sudden faintness crept over him. How could he leave his uncle? What St. George was to him no one but himself knew—father, friend, comrade, adviser—standard of men and morals—all and more was his beloved uncle. No thought of his heart but he had given him, and never once had he been misunderstood. He could put his arm about his uncle’s neck as he would about his mother’s and not be thought effeminate or childish. And the courtesy and dignity and fairness with which he had been treated; and the respect St. George showed him—and he only a boy: compelling his older men friends to do the same. Never letting him feel that any foolish act of his young life had been criticised, or that any one had ever thought the less of him because of them.
Breakfast over, during which no allusion was made either to what St. George had accomplished at the conference of creditors the night before, or to Harry’s early rising—the boy made his way into the park and took the path he loved. It was autumn, and the mild morning air bespoke an Indian summer day. Passing beneath the lusty magnolias, which flaunted here and there their glossy leaves, he paused under one of the big oaks, whose branches, stripped of most of their foliage, still sheltered a small, vine-covered arbor where he and Kate had often sat—indeed, it was within its cool shade that he had first told her of his love. Here he settled himself on a small wooden bench outside the retreat and gave his thoughts full rein—not to repine, nor to revive his troubles, which he meant to put behind him—but to plan out the letter he was to write Kate. This must be clear and convincing and tell the whole story of his heart. That he might empty it the better he had chosen this place made sacred by her presence. Then again, the park was generally deserted at this hour—the hour between the passing of the men of business and the coming of the children and nurses—and he would not be interrupted —certainly not before this arbor—one off by itself and away from passers-by.
He seated himself on the bench, his eyes overlooking the park. All the hours he had passed with Kate beneath the wide-spreading trees rose in his mind; the day they had read aloud to each other, her pretty feet tucked under her so that the dreadful ants couldn’t touch her dainty stockings; the morning when she was late and he had waited and fumed stretching minutes into hours in his impatience; that summer night when the two had hidden behind the big oak so that he could kiss her good-night and none of the others see.
With these memories stirring, his letter was forgotten, and his head dropped upon his breast, as if the weight of all he had lost was greater than he could bear. Grasping his walking-stick the tighter he began tracing figures in the gravel, his thoughts following each line. Suddenly his ears caught the sound of a quick step—one he thought strangely familiar.