“‘Ye lie like a gentleman,’ said I, ’and I’ve pride in ye for it; but Beatrice Esmond never comes in here.’ And then I just told the truth to him. ‘I’ve had jealousy of her for many years, despite her morals,’ I explained.”
Ravenel threw back his head and laughed.
“Oh, you women!” he cried. “Are there many ladies resident in that land of yours?”
“Some; not many. Di Vernon, of course, and Mary Richling, and Dora, whom David Copperfield never had sense enough to appreciate, and oh, the children! Huckleberry Finn and Little Lord Fauntleroy! The Nigger Jim tends the grounds, you know. And that divine Harold of the Dream Days!
“One awful day,” she went on, “when everything seemed wrong,” the quick tears came to her eyes as she spoke, “and I was sick and disgraced before people and wanted to die, I went into My Own Land, and there was Jean Valjean at the bars waiting for me. He smiled as I came.”
“‘Cheer up, Little Irish Lady!’ he cried, at sight of me, ’cheer up! There is reason for everything in that Great Beyond that we’ll understand some day.’ And that night, because of his strength, I went to sleep comforted, and the next morning sang the ‘Ah! Patria mia’ quite nobly. It was payment for the suffering, perhaps. Who can tell?”
“And whom,” it was curious how Frank’s jealousy showed in the question, “whom do you like best of all these tenant folk of yours, Katrine?”
“Ye’ll never tell?” She turned to look him full in the eyes. “Promise me ye’ll never tell; for if the word of it gets abroad there’ll be no keeping him in bounds, he’s so filled with conceit of himself already.” She leaned toward Frank and whispered: “It’s Alan Breck. Ah,” she cried, “you feel so fine and sure when ye’re out with him! With his glittering sword and his belt of gold, and the way he takes the centre of the stage and the speech skin-fitted to the occasion. It’s grand to be with him then. But it’s none of these that I love him for. Do you remember when he says to Catriona: ‘I’m a kind of henchman to Davie,’ she quoted Alan’s words with a deep-voiced enthusiasm, ’and whatever he cares for I’ve got to care for, too. I’m not so very bonny, but I’m leal to them I love.’ In My Land, that is all they care for. They are of all religions and times and climes, but they are loyal, every one.” And, turning to him suddenly, she brought her wee bit of a fist down on the hard stone, her cheeks flushed, her eyes glorious to see. “It’s all there is, in My Land or yours, that makes life worth while—Loyalty! The ’enduring to the end.’ Even if one’s none so bonny, he can be leal to them he loves!”
Frank threw his cigar away and moved nearer to her, holding out his hand with an odd combination of “make-believe” and real pleading in his voice.
“Katrine, dear,” he said, “take me to live in that land of yours. I want to let down the bars of the gate you don’t know where you found, and go up the pine driveway to meet Colonel Newcome. I want all that it means to have those people for intimate friends.”