“Oh you wonder, do you—you exasperating little wretch! Well just give me a chance—”
But suddenly he was standing at attention, his face colorless. Katie jumped up guiltily, and there leaning against the door—all huddled down and terrible looking—was Ann.
“Why, Katie,” she whispered thickly—“Katie! But you told me—you promised me—that you would shut the door in his face.”
It took her a number of seconds to get the fact that they must know each other.
And even then she could get no grip on the situation. She was too shaken by having jumped—as though she were some vulgar housemaid!
And why was Ann looking like that! She looked dreadful—huddled up that way as if some one was going to beat her!
“Why you can’t know each other,” said Katie wildly. “How could you know each other? Where would you know each other? And if you do know each other,”—turning upon him furiously—“need we all act like thieves?”
He tried to speak, but seemed unable to. He had lost command of himself, save in so far as standing very straight was concerned.
She wished Ann would stand up! It gave her such an awful sense of shame to see Ann huddled like that.
“Katie,” Ann whispered, “you told me—”
“I never told you I’d shut the door in Major Darrett’s face!” said Katie harshly. “And what are you talking about? What does this all mean?”
He had recovered himself. “Why it merely means, Katie, that we—as you surmised—at one time—knew each other. The—the acquaintance terminated—not pleasantly. That’s all. A slight surprise for the moment. No harm done.”
Then Ann did stand straight. “It means,” she said shrilly, “that if I had never known him”—pointing at him—“you would never have found me there.” She pointed down toward the river. “Oh no, no harm done, of course—No harm done—”
“Please let us try and keep very quiet,” said Katie coldly. “It is—it is vulgar enough at best. Let us be as quiet—as decent as we can.”
Ann crouched down again as though struck.
Then Katie laughed, bitterly. “Why really, it’s quite as good as a play, isn’t it? It’s quite a scene, I’m sure.”
“It needn’t be,” said he soothingly, and relaxing a little. “I own I was startled for the moment, and—discomfited. But you were quite right—we’ll go into no hysterics. What I can’t understand”—looking from one to the other—“is what she’s doing here.”
Katie’s head went up. “She’s here, I’ll have you know, as my friend. Just as you’re here as my friend.”
She thought Ann was going to fall, and her heart softened a little. “Suppose you go up to my room, Ann. Lie down. Just—just lie down. Keep quiet. Why did you come home? Is something wrong?”
Ann whispered that Worth had a sore throat. She had a chance to come down in an automobile. She thought she had better. She was sorry she had.