Over two years have passed away since that mournful night when Harry with his hand in St. George’s, his voice choking, had declared his determination to leave him the next day and seek his fortunes across the seas.
It was a cruel blow to Temple, coming as it did on the heels of his own disaster, but when the first shock had passed he could but admire the lad for his pluck and love him the better for his independence.
“All right, my son,” he had said, concealing as best he could his intense suffering over the loss of his companion. “I’ll try and get along. But remember I am here—and the door is always open. I don’t blame you—I would do the same thing were I in your place. And now about Kate—what shall I say to her?”
“Nothing. I said it all this morning. She doesn’t love me any more—she would have passed me by without speaking had I not called to her. She’ll be married to Willits before I come back—if I ever do come back. But leaving Kate is easier than leaving you. You have stuck to me all the way through, and Kate—well—perhaps she hasn’t understood—perhaps her father has been talking to her—I don’t know. Anyhow, it’s all over. If I had had any doubts about it before, this morning’s talk settled it. The sea is the best place for me. I can support myself anyway for a while until I can help you.”
Yes! the boy was right, St. George had said to himself. It was all over between them. Kate’s reason had triumphed at last. She, perhaps, was not to blame. Her experiences had been trying and she was still confronted by influences bitterly opposed to Harry, and largely in favor of Willits, for, weak specimen as Prim was, he was still her father, and in so important a step as her marriage, must naturally exercise authority. As for his own influence, that, he realized, had come to an end at their last interview: the whole thing, he must admit, was disappointing— cruelly so—the keenest disappointment of his life.
Many a night since he bid Harry good-by had he sat alone by that same fire, his dogs his only companions, the boy’s words ringing in his ears: “Leaving Kate is easier than leaving you!” Had it been the other way and he the exile, it would have been nearer the truth, he often thought, for nothing in his whole life had left so great a void in his heart as the loss of the boy he loved. Not that he was ever completely disheartened; that was not his nature; there was always daylight ahead—the day when Harry would come back and their old life begin again. With this in store for him he had led his life as best he could, visiting his friends in the country, entertaining in a simple, inexpensive way, hunting at Wesley, where he and Peggy Coston would exchange confidences and funny stories; dining out; fishing in the early spring; getting poorer and poorer in pocket, and yet never complaining, his philosophy being that it would be brighter in the morning, and it always was—to him.