“It is a pleasant day,” he suggested, at length, remotely.
“It is pleasant,” she answered, with averted eyes.
“Unusual weather for this season, don’t you think?” he went on, a bit of teasing in his tone.
“I haven’t thought of it,” she said, concisely.
“Suppose you think about it now,” he suggested, jesting still, but not quite at ease concerning her mood.
Suddenly she turned toward him, her face suffused, her eyes troubled.
“Katrine,” he cried, “what is the matter? Tell me! Let me help you!”
“I’m jealous,” she said, simply.
“Jealous!” he repeated. “Of whom?”
She had clasped her hands in front of her, and stood with her chin drawn in, looking at him from under a tangle of dusky hair.
“You poor child,” he said, moving toward her.
“Don’t!” she cried, backing away, “don’t try to comfort me! I’ve always, always been like this. I cannot help it. Whenever I care for anybody—oh, it never made any difference whether I had any right to care or to be jealous! I just was; and it hurts!” She put her hands suddenly over her heart and began to speak rapidly, as a child does when accumulated trouble makes silence no longer possible. “I hated her when I saw she was with you; far up the road, when I only knew she was a woman; and when I saw her nearer I hated her more. She is so pretty,” she explained. “Are you going to marry her?” she demanded.
“Not exactly,” he answered, grimly.
“Good-bye!” she cried, dropping down the river-bank to the skiff.
“Katrine!” he called.
“I’m not coming back!” she cried through the bushes. “I’m never coming back! Good-bye!”
Two days later there came from Ravenel House a polite note, cordial by the book, asking that Miss Dulany come to them for dinner on the fifth; and, it added, perhaps Miss Dulany might give them an opportunity to hear her charming voice. It was written in the quaint, old-fashioned hand of Mrs. Ravenel.
Katrine read it with a curious smile around her lips, answering while the messenger waited. She “regretted extremely that a cold”; she paused a minute in the writing to reflect on the way the cold had come; sitting one damp afternoon in the rose-garden with the son of the writer of this extremely polite invitation; “regretted extremely that this cold, which seemed more persistent than such things generally were, prevented her accepting Mrs. Ravenel’s most kind invitation.”
The third meeting was an intentional one on Frank’s part. The people at Ravenel had become unbearable, and with no thought save for Katrine’s society, he took a short cut through the laurel trees, crossed the river in his canoe, and entered the lodge garden to find her sitting on the broad steps of the house, her chin resting in her hands. There was an exaltation in her little being, an alluring remoteness, an entire concentration upon her own thoughts, which one sees in a child; and when one saw her thus, dreaming hillward, one knew there were great ongoings in that dusky head of hers.