A sob shook Katie. The woe of the world seemed surging just beneath her—rising so high that it threatened to suck her in.
But because she was a fighter she mastered the sob and vowed that rather than be sucked in to the woe of the world she would find out about the world. Certainly she would sit apart no longer. She would study. She would see. She would live.
Life had become a sterner and a bigger thing. She would meet it in a sterner and bigger way. To understand! That was the greatest thing in life.
That passion to understand grew big within her. How could she hope to go laughing through a world which sobbed? How turn from life when she saw life suffering? Why she could not even turn from a little bird which she saw suffering!
There was a noble wistfulness in her longing to talk again with the man who mended the boats.
In temporary relaxation from the stress of that mood she was glad to see her friend Major Darrett.
He did not suggest the woe of the world. Because the big new things had become—for the moment, at least—too much for her, there was rest in the shelter of the small familiar things.
So much of the unknown had been beating against her that she was glad for a little laughing respite in the known.
He stood for a world she knew how to deal with. In that he seemed to offer shelter; not that he would be able to do it for long.
He always roused a particular imp in Katie which wanted to be flirtatious. She found now, with a certain relief, that the grave things of life had not exterminated that imp. She would scarcely have felt acquainted with herself had it perished.
And because she was so pleased to find it alive she let it grow very live indeed.
Ann and Worth had been gone for five days. Ann had seemed to like the idea of going. She said she would be glad to be alone for a time and “rest up,” as she vaguely put it. Katie told her that when she came back they would make some plans; and she told her she was not to worry about things; that everything was going to be all right.
Ann received it with childlike trust. She seemed to think that it was all in Katie’s hands, to accept with a child’s literalness that Katie would not let the old things come back, that she would “shut the door in their face.”
Other things were in Katie’s hands that day: preparations for a big dinner they were giving that night.
It was for some cavalry people who were stopping there. And in addition to the cavalry officers and their wives there was a staff officer from Washington who was valuable to Wayne just then. Katie was anxious that the dinner be a success. She was glad Major Darrett was there. He went a long way toward assuring its success.
And Zelda Fraser was with the party. Katie had seen her for a moment that morning, and would see her again at night. She was stopping with Caroline Osborne, whom she had known at school.