Sick at heart he turned on his heel and with quickened pace retraced his steps. He would not be a spy, and he could not he an eavesdropper. As the thought forced itself on his mind, the fear that he might meet some one whom he would know, or who would know him, overtook him. So great was his anxiety that it was only when he had left the park far behind him on his way back to the Sailors’ House, that he regained his composure. He was prepared to face the truth, and all of it whatever it held in store for him; but he must first confront his father and learn just how he stood with him; then he would see his mother and Alec, and then he would find St. George: Kate must come last.
The news that his father had offered to pay his debts—although he did not intend that that should relieve him in any way of his own responsibility to his uncle—kindled fresh hopes in his heart and buoyed him up. Now that his father had tried repeatedly to repair the wrong he had done it might only be necessary to throw himself on his knees before him and be taken back into his heart and arms. To see him, then, was his first duty and this he would begin to carry out in the morning. As to his meeting his mother and Alec—should he fail with his father—that must be undertaken with more care, for he could not place himself in the position of sneaking home and using the joy his return would bring them as a means to soften his father’s heart. Yes, he would find his father first, then his mother and Alec. If his father received him the others would follow. If he was repulsed, he must seek out some other way.
This over he would find St. George. He knew exactly where his uncle was, although he had not said so to Pawson. He was not at Coston’s, nor anywhere in the vicinity of Wesley, but at Craddock, on the bay—a small country house some miles distant, where he and his dogs had often spent days and weeks during the ducking season. St. George had settled down there to rest and get away from his troubles; that was why he had not answered Pawson’s letters.
Striding along with his alert, springing step, he swung through the deserted and unguarded Marsh Market, picked his way between the piles of produce and market carts, and plunging down a narrow street leading to the wharf, halted before a door over which swung a lantern burning a green light. Here he entered.
Although it was now near midnight, there were still eight or ten seafaring men in the room—several of them members of his own crew aboard the Mohican. Two were playing checkers, the others crowded about a square table where a game of cards was in progress; wavy lines of tobacco smoke floated beneath the dingy ceiling; at one end was a small bar where a man in a woollen shirt was filling some short, thick tumblers from an earthen jug. It was the ordinary sailors’ retreat where the men put up before, between, and after their voyages.
One of them at the card-table looked up from his game as Harry entered, and called out: