“Kate here—two minutes ago—what will I do?” Had he found himself at sea in an open boat with both oars adrift he could not have been more helpless.
“Do! Catch her before she gets home! Quick!—just as you are—sailor clothes and all!”
“But how will I know if—?”
“You don’t have to know! Away with you, I tell you!”
And away he went—and if you will believe it, dear reader—without even a whisper in his uncle’s ears of the good news he had come to tell.
Ben let him in.
He came as an apparition, the old butler balancing the door in his hand, as if undecided what to do, trying to account for the change in the young man’s appearance—the width of shoulders, the rough clothes, and the determined glance of his eye.
“Fo’ Gawd, it’s Marse Harry!” was all he said when he could get his mouth open.
“Yes, Ben—go and tell your mistress I am here,” and he brushed past him and pushed back the drawing-room door. Once inside he crossed to the mantel and stood with his back to the hearth, his sailor’s cap in his hand, his eyes fixed on the door he had just closed behind him. Through it would come the beginning or the end of his life. Ben’s noiseless entrance and exit a moment after, with his mistress’s message neither raised nor depressed his hopes. He had known all along she would not refuse to see him: what would come after was the wall that loomed up.
She had not hesitated, nor did she keep him waiting. Her eyes were still red with weeping, her hair partly dishevelled, when Ben found her—but she did not seem to care. Nor was she frightened—nor eager. She just lifted her cheek from Mammy Henny’s caressing hand—pushed back the hair from her face with a movement as if she was trying to collect her thoughts, and without rising from her knees heard Ben’s message to the end. Then she answered calmly:
“Did you say Mr. Harry Rutter, Ben? Tell him I’ll be down in a moment.”
She entered with that same graceful movement which he loved so well—her head up, her face turned frankly toward him, one hand extended in welcome.
“Uncle George told me you were back, Harry. It was very good of you to come,” and sank on the sofa.
It had been but a few steps to him—the space between the open door and the hearth rug on which he stood—and it had taken her but a few seconds to cross it, but in that brief interval the heavens had opened above her. The old Harry was there—the smile—the flash in the eyes—the joy of seeing her—the quick movement of his hand in gracious salute; then there had followed a sense of his strength, of the calm poise of his body, of the clearness of his skin. She saw, too, how much handsomer he had grown,—and noted the rough sailor’s clothes. How well they fitted his robust frame! And the clear, calm eyes and finely cut features—no shrinking from responsibility in that face; no faltering—the old ideal of her early love and the new ideal of her sailor boy—the one Richard’s voice had conjured—welded into one personality!