“In this way, most of all,” he told her, as he took her left hand up, and pointed at the finger where Waldron’s ring had been and now no longer was.
She looked at him a moment, hardly understanding; then bowed her head.
“Father,” she whispered. “Forgive me—but I couldn’t! I—I couldn’t! No, not for the world!”
Flint’s drug-contracted eyes hardened as he stood there gazing down at her. Once, twice he essayed to speak, but found no words. At last, however, blinking nervously, he said:
“This, Kate, is what I want to talk with you about, to-night. Will you hear me?”
“Hear you, best and dearest father in the world?” she cried, looking quickly up at him again. “Of course I will! Only, I beg you, don’t—don’t ask me to—”
“I will ask you nothing, Kate, my girl, save this—to consider everything well, and to act like a reasoning, thinking creature, not like an impetuous and romantic school-girl!”
Releasing her hands, he once more sat down in the easy-chair, crossed his legs and peered keenly at her, to fathom if he could the inner workings of that other brain and heart.
“Well, father,” she said, “I’ll admit, right away, that I’ve done wrong to keep this from you, or to try to. We—I—broke the engagement, that day of the accident, out at Longmeadow. I meant to tell you, tell you everything and explain it all, but somehow—”
“You needn’t explain, my dear,” said Flint, judicially. “Wally has already done so.”
“And does he blame me, father?” cried the girl, eagerly, clasping her hands on her knees.
“No, not at all. On the contrary, he claims the fault is all his own. And he’s most contrite and repentant, Kate. Absolutely so. All he asks in the world is to make amends and—well, resume the old relation, whenever you are willing.”
Kate shook her head.
“That’s noble and big of him, father,” said she, “to assume all the blame. Really, half of it is mine. But he’s acted like a true man, in taking it. However, that can’t change my decision. I want him for a friend, in every way. But for a husband, no, no, never in this world!”
The Billionaire frowned darkly. Already a stronger opposition was developing than he had expected; and opposition was the one thing in all the world that he could neither tolerate nor endure.
“Listen, Kate,” said he. “You don’t grasp the situation at all. Waldron is an extraordinary man in many ways. In refusing him, you seriously injure yourself. Of course, he has never done any spectacular, heroic thing for you, like—for instance—that young man who rescued you, and whom I shall suitably reward as soon as I find him—”
“What!” she exclaimed, peering eagerly at her father. “What do you mean? Find him? Reward him?”