And this was quite possible when his blood is considered. There had been, it is true, dominating tyrants way back in his ancestry, as well as spend-thrifts, drunkards, roysterers, and gamesters, but so far as the records showed there had never been a coward. That old fellow De Ruyter, whose portrait hung at Moorlands and who might have been his father, so great was the resemblance, had, so to speak, held a shovel in one hand and a sword in the other in the days when he helped drown out his own and his neighbors’ estates to keep the haughty don from gobbling up his country. One had but to look into Harry’s face to be convinced that he too would have followed in his footsteps had he lived in that ancestor’s time.
It was when the boy, smarting under his father’s insult, was passing under the blossoms of a wide-spreading magnolia, trying to get a glimpse of Kate’s face, if by any chance she should be at her window, that this grain of gray matter, or lively red corpuscle—or whatever it might have been—forced itself through. The breaking away was slow—little by little—as an underground tunnel seeks an opening—but the light increased with every thought-stroke, its blinding intensity becoming so fierce at last that he came to a halt, his eyes on the ground, his whole body tense, his mind in a whirl.
Suddenly his brain acted.
To sit down and snivel would do no good; to curse his father would be useless and wicked; to force himself on Kate sheer madness. But—but—but—he was twenty-two!—in perfect health and not ashamed to look any man in the face. St. George loved him—so did his precious mother, and Alec, and a host of others. Should he continue to sit in ashes, swaddled in sackcloth—or should he meet the situation like a man? Then as his mental vision became accustomed to the glare, two things stood out clear in his mind—to win Kate back, no matter at what cost—and to compel his father’s respect.
His mother was the first to hear the music of this new note of resolve, and she had not long to wait. She had come to town with the colonel—indeed it was at her request that he had ordered the coach instead of coming in on horseback, as was his custom—and was at the moment quietly resting on St. George’s big sofa.
“It is all over, mother,” Harry cried in a voice so firm and determined that his mother knew at once something unusual had happened—“and you might as well make up your mind to it—I have. Father walked into the club five minutes ago, looked me square in the face, and cut me dead; and he insulted Uncle George too, who gave him the greatest dressing down you ever heard in your life.” He had learned another side of his uncle’s character—one he should never cease to be grateful for—his outspoken defence of him before his equals.
Mrs. Rutter half rose from her seat in blank astonishment. She was a frail little woman with pale-blue eyes and a figure like a curl of smoke.