“You must,” she explained, “really to appreciate this place, lie on the couch so that you may see the wistaria on the gray wall. You should then light a cigarette and have the table brought near, that you may ring for what you want.” She moved the table toward him as she spoke. “And I will take this chair beside you. If you want me to talk to you I shall do so; if you want me to sing, I will do that; or if the king desires silence”—she made an obeisance before him as of great humility—“I can even accomplish that, though it is difficult for a woman,” she added, with a laugh.
It was dangerous repayment of a kindness: this entire forgetfulness of herself in her gratitude to him; this essence of the wine of flattery, of Irish flattery, which has ever a peculiar bouquet of its own.
“You have a good friend in McDermott,” Francis said, abruptly.
“Yes; he has been kind to us, most kind,” Katrine answered.
“For old sake’s sake?” Frank suggested.
“Scarcely for that. We never knew him until father met him quite by accident in New York two years ago.”
“Didn’t they fight together in India?” Frank inquired.
“In India!” Katrine repeated. “Father was never in India. Will some one have been telling you that McDermott and he fought together in India, Mr. Ravenel?” she asked, in astonishment.
Frank sat upright, regarding her with amazement.
“Didn’t your father save his life at Ramazan?”
It was Katrine’s turn to be bewildered.
“I never heard of Ramazan,” she said. “Where is it?”
“And he was not present at your father’s marriage in Italy?”
Katrine shook her head; but to Ravenel’s astonishment she began to wear an amused smile as he repeated McDermott’s tale to her bit by bit.
“I understand,” she explained, “my father saved him from a horrible attack of the measles in New York. They thought for weeks that he would die.”
“But why,” Frank demanded, “didn’t he say just that?”
“He couldn’t!” Katrine stated, as simply and uncritically as a child. “You see, he has the soul of an artist, and there’s something about a man of thirty dying of measles impossible for the artistic temperament to contemplate. Ah!” she said, with gentle pleading in her voice for an absent friend, “he’s the greatest liar as well as the most truthful person alive; but you’ve got to be Irish to understand how that thing can be. He couldn’t say my father saved him from the measles. The story of India sounds better—and no one is hurt. Can’t ye understand? The gratitude for service rendered is the great thing; to remember a kindness has been done; and whether he gives as reason for his gratitude Ramazan or the measles, what is the difference? Do you know”—there came an apologetic look and blush to her face as she spoke, “that I myself, when it comes to things of the heart—” she ended the sentence with a laugh and a gesture of self-depreciation. “There was once a little child in Killybegs,” she explained, “a girl, who wanted to be a boy, and she cried all of the time because she wasn’t. So I told her she was a boy, and it comforted her for quite a year. You see, it made her happy.”