When Katrine returned to her apartment after her visit to Dermott, she found Nora, with an excited countenance, waiting for her at the door. Finger on lip, she indicated a wish for Katrine to follow to her bedroom.
“Miss Katrine,” she said, closing the door by backing against it, “there’s one waiting for you. And you must think quick whether ye want to see her—with all that it may mean to you—with the rehearsal to-night. Though, poor lady, God knows her troubles! It’s Mrs. Ravenel,” she concluded.
“Alone?” Katrine asked.
“Yes, and with the tears streaming from her eyes and the look of death on her face. Mr. Frank’s dyin’, they say. But I want you to think—to think for yourself, Miss Katrine. Remember the night in Paris, when the world hung on your voice! Think of the afternoon when the greatest queen on earth kissed ye, after ye’d sung to her, with dukes and other creatures standin’ round admirin’! Think that, if your voice fails ye to-night because of excitement and worry, it may be a check on your whole career! Think of the beautiful clothes laid out for ye to wear, and judge if it’s worth while taking chances for a man who flung ye away like a worn-out glove!”
“Oh, Nora!” cried Katrine, reproachfully, “how can any one think of a voice in a time like this?”
As Katrine entered, Mrs. Ravenel turned from the fire by which she was standing and came toward her with outstretched hands.
Her eyes were red with weeping, and there was a hurried, despairing note in her voice as she spoke. “Katrine Dulany,” she said, “I’ve come to you for help.” Years of thought could not have given her better words, and the strong, young hands enfolded the cold ones of the suffering mother.
“If there is anything I can do for you, I will do it, oh, so gladly!” Katrine answered.
“Frank is very”—Mrs. Ravenel hesitated, as though lacking courage to speak her fears—“perhaps dangerously ill. For nearly two months the trouble has been coming on—ever since he was at the Van Rensselaers’. When he came back to me in North Carolina he had changed. He seemed struggling to throw off some heavy burden. His old gayety was gone, and he was always going to Marlton to look for records or asking me for more of his father’s papers. At times he seemed half distracted, and would sit looking at me with brooding eyes with pity in them. But when he came back from Europe, just two weeks ago to-day”—the poor lady’s voice was choked with sobs, and Katrine put a supporting arm around her with beautiful tenderness as she waited for her to continue—“he looked so ill I cried out at first sight of him. And he does not care to live! I can’t make it out. It’s not the money trouble. Money could never worry Frank. He cares too little for it! Last week,” she went on, her voice losing itself in sobs, “Anne Lennox wrote me of your being at the Van Rensselaers’, and of