“Mr. Ravenel,” she began, “I had thought to keep it from you, but you are different—the most different person I ever saw.” A dimple came in her cheek as she smiled. “And so I am going to tell you everything.” She made a little outward gesture of the hands, as though casting discretion to the wind. “My father drinks. It began with his great sorrow. It is not all the time, but frequently. I had hoped that down here he would be better. He is not, and you will have to get another overseer. It is not just to you to have my father in charge. Only I think that perhaps such times as he is himself some work might be found for him. It is so peaceful here; I do not want to go away.”
“You shall not go away.”
The words were spoken quietly, but for the first time in her life Katrine Dulany felt there was some one of great power to whom she could turn for help, and her woman heart thrilled at the words.
“You mustn’t feel about it as you do, either,” Frank continued. “The time has gone by for thinking of your father’s trouble as anything except a disease—a disease which very frequently can be cured.”
“Ah!” she cried, “do you think it would be possible?”
“I have known many cases. Is your father good to you?” he asked, abruptly.
“Sick or well, with money or without, he is the kindest father in the world. Save in one way, it is always for me he thinks.”
Her hand lay on the log. It was small and white, and she was very beautiful. Frank had seldom resisted temptation. This one he did not even try to resist, and he placed his hand over hers.
“Katrine,” he said, “I am not a particularly good man, but the gods have willed that we meet—meet in strange moods and a strange way. I am a better man to-night than I have ever been in my life. It’s the music, maybe, or the fringed gentian, or the whippoorwills.” There was love-making in every tone of his voice. “Whatever it is, it makes me want to help you. May I? Will you trust me?”
She turned her hand upward, as a child might have done, to clasp his, looking him full in the eyes as she did so.
“Utterly,” she said.
“I have not always been considered trustworthy,” he explained, lightly.
“People may not have understood you.” There was a sweet explaining in her voice.
“Which may have been, on the whole, fortunate for me,” he answered, with a curious smile.
“Don’t,” she said—“don’t talk of yourself like that. I know you are good, good, good!”
“Thank you,” and again there came to him the throb in the throat he had felt when their eyes first met. “Believe me,” he said, “I shall always try to be—to you,” and as he spoke he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.
A noise startled him. Some one was approaching with uncertain footsteps and a shuffling gait, and at the sound the girl’s face turned crimson.