There was still no spoken word as they walked side by side along the path which led to the house. At the turn into the wider way there was a tall pine-tree, the boughs beginning high from the ground, the turf beneath them covered with brown pine-needles. There was a bench here, upon which they had often sat together. In the moonlight this place under the tree was in a soft, warm glow. As they drew near it Frank spoke in a voice scarcely above a whisper. “Sit here, just for a minute?”
It seemed as though they were alone together in the world. In the moonlit gloom under the pine they stood, near, nearer, and at length he put his arm around her gently, not drawing her toward him, only letting it lie around her waist, as though they had a right to be there, heart to heart, in the stillness of the night. Standing thus, he felt her tremble, noted her quickened breath, and the rise and fall of her breast and shoulders because of his caress.
Although they could not see each other in the gloom, she knew his lips sought hers. By an indefinable instinct she turned from him twice before their lips met in a long kiss of passion and content. They kissed each other again before he drew her down beside him on the garden bench in the flower-scented dusk.
“You care?” she asked, in a whisper, her breath on his cheek.
“More than I thought I could care for anything in life,” he answered.
* * * * *
It was after ten when Nora’s shrill voice recalled them to themselves.
Standing together, she asked, as she bade him good-night:
For answer he clasped her slim white hands behind his throat and drew her toward him.
“What do you think?” he said, his lips kissing hers in the speaking of the words.
“I hope you will not go.”
“I shall not.” And then: “Oh, for a few days, perhaps, to take mother to Bar Harbor; but I shall come back. And we’ll have the whole long summer together, you and I; you and I,” he repeated. “Good-night. Kiss me, Katrine!”
“Good-night,” she said, raising her lips to his; and then, almost as though it were a benediction, she added: “God keep you always just as you are, beloved.” And as he had done many times before, Francis Ravenel felt powerless before this girl who gave all, asking nothing in return.
Frank did not leave Ravenel even for the few days which he had mentioned to Katrine as a possibility. Accompanied only by her maid, Mrs. Ravenel started to Bar Harbor without him. June drifted into July, and still he lingered at the plantation.
And all the summer days were spent with Katrine Dulany. At first he believed that he would probably tire of the whole affair quickly. He was surprised to find that he did not. He found her always new. There was an elusive quality to her, days when she would barely permit him to touch her hand, when she dazzled him by the audacity of her thinking; her indifference to him, to him who was in no way accustomed to indifference in women. And a few hours later, perchance, he would return to find a girl with wistful eyes and speech of tenderness, with no thought “that is not for the king,” she told him once.