Her lips quivered for an instant before she controlled herself to speak.
“There seems nothing to say except ‘Good-bye.’”
Her voice was infinitely sad and tender. There was neither anger nor resentment in it, and she rose as though to leave him, but he held her back. The great womanliness of her, the ability to suffer in silence, and the dignity of such a silence touched him strangely. There was a sob in his throat as he spoke.
“Forgive me!” he said. “Oh, say you forgive me, Katrine!”
“Dear,” she answered—and as she spoke she put her hand on his brown hair, as a mother might have done, “I don’t want you to suffer like this. I might have known, had I thought about it at all, that you would never marry me. But it seemed so perfect as it was, I never thought at all, I just,” it seemed as though she were saying her worst to him, “I just trusted you.”
He flung out one arm as though to protect himself from a physical blow, and a moan escaped him.
“Let me tell you about myself,” she continued; “it will be best, for we may never meet again. Oh, please God,” she cried, suddenly, “we may never meet again in this world!”
The tears were rolling down her cheeks, and she sobbed aloud as she spoke. He reached his arms toward her, but she moved away, sitting silent until she regained such composure as would permit her to go on.
“The first thing I remember in my life, I must have been about three, was my father’s beating his head against the wall of the room in which I was sleeping because my mother had left him. After that I became used to anything—to sudden moves in the dark; to being alone with him through the long nights when he had been drinking; to poverty, to black poverty that means not enough to eat nor enough clothes to keep one warm; to years and years of want and despair and misery. As I grew older and went to the convent schools, some of the girls invited me home with them. It was because of my looks and my voice, you know.” There was sweet humility in the statement, as though apologizing for the fact that she had been desired. “And they were quite kind. Their parents liked me, and one of them, I remember, said: ’She has a beautiful manner, which is wonderful considering she is little better than a child of the streets.’ I could not feel even then how I was to blame for my birth, seeing that it was a thing arranged for me by the good God. But I learned what to expect.
“As father grew worse and less able to care for himself, it was necessary to have money. Mr. Ravenel, I have been a beggar in the streets! I have sung in the streets, I! in the court-yards of the hotels, for money to keep from starving! So you will see sorrow is no new thing to me. I do not question it. I have had in my life three perfectly happy months, perfectly happy. It is as much as a woman can expect, perhaps, and though it kill me, though it kill me, I shall never regret having known and loved you.” She paused a minute. “When one has to die it is best to go quickly, is it not? When there is some terrible thing in life to do, it were best done quickly as well. Good-bye,” she said, putting out her hand.