“It may be,” Dermott returned, calmly. “Most things are open to that interpretation. I’m afraid, however, you will have difficulty in proving it so. I have had the certificates of the marriage and of the birth of the child for a long time, but international law requires much. I have living witnesses. In Carolina, in looking up the matter,” he spoke the word vaguely, “I failed to find anything which would disprove the points I have just placed before you. I was awaiting some letters from France before explaining the case to you, when Katrine demanded that her debt to you be paid immediately. There are many reasons why I do not wish to pay that debt now, reasons which we, as men, can understand. She might not comprehend them, and she certainly would not give the idea a straw’s weight if she did, having once made up her mind. Now I’m going to tell her that I’ve paid her debt, Mr. Ravenel. It will comfort her. But with the matter which I have revealed to you still a little unsettled, and the markets in the state they are in, I cannot do my duty as executor and fulfil her desires immediately. After all, it is a small amount, and if my personal check—” He waited, and Ravenel spoke.
“Mr. McDermott, Miss Dulany’s indebtedness to me is too slight to consider. About this other terrible business, I shall search my father’s papers! It is necessary that I do everything I can to protect my mother’s name as well as my own.”
“That’s reason,” Dermott agreed.
“As to Miss Dulany—”
Both men turned, for at the far end of the room Katrine stood, under the swinging light of a Japanese lamp, regarding them.
She came rapidly toward them, her head a little forward, her cheeks scarlet, and a gleam of temper in her eyes, which Frank had never seen, but with which Dermott was not unfamiliar, and took a place between them.
“See!” she cried, smiling, and there was never another woman in all the world who had the appealing smile of Katrine Dulany. “Don’t let us make this all so dreadful. There is just some mistake,” she said, with a gesture of impatience; and from here she went on with a certain terrifying ability, peculiarly her own, to come directly to a point.
“Oh,” she said, with a gesture including them both, “you’ve done what I asked you not to do, Dermott!” she said. “You’ve claimed a yet unproven thing. I’m tired of the whole of it. It is better that we three should understand one another altogether and not go talking by twos,” and she faced Dermott as she turned. “You may prove everything, and I’ll never believe a word of it! Give me Ravenel, and I’ll return it to those to whom it belongs. It’s his,” indicating Frank, “and his mother’s, and they shall keep it, no matter what you prove! As for me!” she laughed, giving herself a shake as a bird does. “Hark!” she cried, raising one finger. Softly, as a bird calls to the purpling east at dawn, she took a note, listening intently, going up, up, up, till the tone, a mere thread of gladness, reached high E, where it swelled, rounder and fuller, until it seemed to fill all space, descending in a sparkling shower of chromatics to lower G.