“Don’t worry, you dear little mother,” he said tenderly. “I don’t know how it’s coming out, but it will come out somehow. Let father go: Kate is the only thing that counts now. I don’t blame her for anything she has done, and I don’t blame myself either. All I know is that everything has gone wrong. But, wrong or right, I’m going to stay here just as long as Uncle George will let me. He’s been more of a father to me than my own. It’s you I can’t get along without, you precious little mother,” and he patted her pale cheeks. “Won’t you come in every day—and bring Alec too?” then, as if he had not yet asked her consent—“You don’t mind my being here, do you?”
She drew his head close to her lips and kissed his cheek. “No, my son, I don’t mind—I’m glad. Every night of my life I thank my Maker that you are here.” She raised her eyes to St. George, who stood looking down upon them both, and in a voice barely audible, an unbidden sob choking her utterance, faltered—“It’s only one more proof of your goodness, St. George.”
He raised his hand in protest and a faint smile crossed his face. “Don’t talk that way. Annie.”
“I will—it’s true. It is a proof of your goodness. I have never deserved it. I don’t now—but you never fail me.” Her voice was clearer now—her cheeks, too, had regained some of their color. Harry listened wonderingly, his arm still around her.
“I couldn’t do anything else, Annie—nobody could under the circumstances.” His voice had dropped almost to a whisper.
“But it was for me you did it, St. George. I would rather think of it that way; it makes it easier. Say you did it for me.”
St. George stooped down, raised her thin white hand to his lips, kissed it reverently, and without a word of any kind walked to the door of his bedroom and shut it behind him.
Mrs. Rutter’s hand dropped to her lap and a smile of intense relief passed over her face. She neither looked after St. George, nor did she offer any explanation to Harry; she merely bent forward and continued her caresses, stroking the boy’s glossy hair, patting the white temples with her delicate fingers, smoothing the small, well-set ears and the full brown throat, kissing his forehead, her eyes reading his face, wondering if she had spoken too freely and yet regretting nothing: what she had said had come straight from her heart and she was not ashamed of it.
The boy lay still, his head against her breast. That his mother had been stirred even in a greater degree over what St. George had said to her than she had been by his father’s treatment of him was evident in the trembling movement of the soft hands caressing his hair and in the way her breath came and went. Under her soothing touch his thoughts went back to the events of the morning:—his uncle’s defiant tones as he denounced his father; his soft answer to his mother; her pleading words in reply, and then the reverent kiss.