“Of course, being what you call a ‘girl of the world’ it’s absurd I should question the man’s point of view, but I can’t quite get the logic of it. You wouldn’t marry a woman with a past, and yet the woman who marries you is marrying a man with one.”
“I’ve lived a man’s life,” he said. And he said it with a certain pride.
“And perhaps she’s lived a woman’s life,” Katie was thinking. Only the woman was not entitled to the pride. For her it led toward self-destruction rather than self-approval.
“It’s this way, Katie,” he explained to her. “This is the difference. A woman’s past doesn’t stay in the past. It marks her. Why I can tell a woman with a past every time,” he concluded confidently.
Katie sat there smiling at him. The smile puzzled him.
“Now look here, Katie, surely you—a girl of the world—the good sort—aren’t going to be so melodramatic as to dig up a ‘past’ for me, are you?”
“No,” said Katie, “I don’t want to be melodramatic. I’ll try to dig up no pasts.”
His talk ran on, and her thoughts. It seemed so cruel a thing that Ann’s past—whatever it might be, and surely nothing short of a “past” could make a girl want to kill herself—should rise up and damn her now. To him she was a dear lovely girl—the sort of a girl a man would want to marry. Very well then, intrinsically, she was that. Why not let people be what they were? Why not let them be themselves, instead of what one thought they would be from what one knew of their lives? It was so easy to see marks when one knew of things which one’s philosophy held would leave marks. It seemed a fairer and a saner thing to let human beings be what their experiences had actually made them rather than what one thought those experiences would make them.
Captain Prescott had blighted a Cuban woman’s life—for his own pleasure and vanity. With Ann it may have been the press of necessity, or it may have been—the call of life. Either one, being driven by life, or drawn to it, seemed less ignominious than trifling with life.
Why would it be so much worse for Captain Prescott to marry Ann than it would be for Ann to marry Captain Prescott?
The man who mended the boats would back her up in that!
Through her somber perplexity there suddenly darted the sportive idea of getting Ann in the army! The audacious little imp of an idea peeped around corners in Katie’s consciousness and tried to coquet with her. Banished, it came scampering back to whisper that Ann would not bring the army its first “past”—either masculine or feminine. Only in the army they managed things in such wise that there was no need of committing suicide. Ann had been a bad manager.
But at that moment they were joined by Captain Prescott’s mother and he retired for a solitary smoke.