Suddenly, clear as the tones of a far-off convent bell sifting down from some cloud-swept crag, there stole into his mind a memory of his childhood—a legend of long ago, vague and intangible—one he could not put into words—one Alec had once hinted at. He held his breath trying to gather up the loose ends—to make a connected whole; to fit the parts together. Then, as one blows out a candle, leaving total darkness, he banished it all from his mind.
“Mother dear!—mother dear!” he cried tenderly, and wound his arms the closer about her neck.
She gathered him up as she had done in the old days when he was a child at her breast; all the intervening years seemed blotted out. He was her baby boy once more—her constant companion and unending comfort: the one and only thing in her whole life that understood her.
Soon the warmth and strength of the full man began to reach her heart. She drew him still closer, this strong son who loved her, and in the embrace there grew a new and strange tenderness—one born of confidence. It was this arm which must defend her now; this head and heart which must guide her. She was no longer adrift.
The two had not moved when St. George re-entered the room some moments later. Harry’s head still lay on her breast, the thin, transparent hands tight about his neck.
The colonel’s treatment of Harry at the club had cleared the air of any doubt that either the boy or St. George might have had concerning Rutter’s frame of mind. Henceforth the boy and the man would conduct their lives as if the Lord of Moorlands did not exist.
So the boy unpacked the things which Alec had brought in, and with his mother’s assistance—who came in once a week—hung up his hunting-clothes in the closet, racked up his guns and fishing-rods over the mantel, and suspended his favorite saddle by a stirrup on a hook in the hall. Then the two had set out his books and miniatures; one of his mother, which he kissed tenderly, with the remark that it wasn’t half as pretty as the original, and then propped up in the place of honor in the middle of his desk, and another of his father, which he placed on an adjoining table—as well as his few belongings and knickknacks. And so the outcast settled down determined not only to adapt himself to the comforts—or want of them—to be found under St. George’s roof, but to do it cheerfully, gratefully, and like a man and a gentleman.
To none of all this did his father offer a single objection. “Make a clean sweep of Mr. Harry Rutter’s things,” he had said to Alec, “so that I may be relieved from the annoyance of a second delivery.”
Alec had repeated the order to Harry word for word, adding: “Don’t you sass back, Marse Harry—let him blow hisse’f out—he don’t mean nothin’. He’s dat mad he’s crazy—gits dat way sometimes—den purty soon he’s fit to bust hisse’f wide open a-cryin’! I see him do dat once when you warn’t mo’n so high, and de doctor said you was daid fo’ sho’.”