“He’s so remote you can prove nothing against him. Take another that I have later news of.”
“He was never an Irishman.”
“And I’m thinkin’, begging your pardon, Mistress Katrine, there was a lady to be explained away in his case. No,” he said, waving her suggestion far from him, “all the Irish are alike. They’ve, as I say, one of three vices. I lie, that’s why I’m so interestin’, especially to the ladies. Suppose I say: ’Old Mrs. O’Hooligan was tripped by a dog in the lane yesterday!’ Who cares? Not one soul in a thousand! But instead, with a gesture: ’Did ye hear of the startling adventure of Mrs. O’Hooligan? She was coming home at midnight from a sick friend’s’ (it’s well to throw in a few sympathetic touches if ye can). ’Suddenly an animal, a strange animal, came by, something like a mad bull’ (of course you can enlarge or diminish the animal as required; in the mist of night I have found a black cat very telling). ’She saw the vision quite plainly. It passed, touched her, there was a word in the air whose significance she was unable to determine, and in the morning the friend was well—or dead.’ For conversational purposes it makes no difference.”
He wore a broad smile as he spoke, looking down at her with great love and devotion.
“Ye see, Mistress Katrine, the ladies like a little exaggeration. There’s Mrs. Ravenel likes me fine, and says it’s my temperament; and Peggy of the Poplars is crazy about me; and hundreds in the two continents who’d marry me at a second’s notice. I’m a great lover,” he laughed somewhat uneasily, keeping his eyes averted, and adding, “when I don’t care! Ye see, a woman doesn’t mind a bit of exaggeration in a man’s love-making,” he went on. “Now there was Antony, who threw a world away. What’s that! One world! I’d tell her I’d throw away a universe of worlds. Why not be extravagant! It’s all,” he laughed again softly, “it’s all ‘hot air,’ anyway.”
“And yet you’re a truthful person, Dermott McDermott. There’s none can tell the truth more bravely or with greater nicety than you,” Katrine broke in.
“When I’ve need of it, and it’s an affair of men,” he answered. “Oh, I still know Truth when I meet her. We’ve not fallen out altogether, but I stick to it that she’s very dry company. But this discussion, after all, is merely academic,” he said, with a droll smile. “I have come to you in a perturbed state of mind. You have refused to marry me thousands of times, it is true; but I am noble, and forgive. To-morrow I am having some delicacies sent me from the North. My cook is a duffer. Now, I thought, why can’t Katrine Dulany and I have a little dinner, with Nora to prepare it, Mr. Ravenel asked in, and all be happy together?”
“I don’t think Mr. Ravenel can come. There are visitors at Ravenel House,” Katrine explained.
“He can-and I think he will-leave them for one evening,” Dermott answered.