“Poor heart!” she repeated. “Poor heart, she’s enough to bear without this coming to her the now!”
But pushing the branches aside, she spoke in simulated anger to Katrine, a pretence which showed well the peculiar delicacy of her class. It was not for the like of her, she reasoned, to know the truth regarding Miss Katrine’s relation with Mr. Ravenel; and yet she knew as accurately as if the scene of the morning had taken place before her. With clear, wise eyes she had dreaded such an ending the summer long. Nothing, she reasoned, could further hurt Katrine’s pride than to have it known her love had been slighted, or to offer sympathy, no matter how hiddenly. And so she feigned well an anger she was far from feeling, in an intentional misunderstanding.
Looking down at the prostrate figure, she began, in a shrill voice:
“Honestly to God, Miss Katrine, ye’ll hear another word of this! Crying like a child in the middle of a lot of damp stickers because ye can’t have music as ye like! Just throw yourself round on this wet ground a bit more an’ mayhap He’ll take away the voice He’s given ye already! Perhaps it’s because ye cry for nothing that there’s been something sent ye to cry for!” And here her thought of suitable conduct was lost in real grief.
“Ah, Miss Katrine! Miss Katrine! Your father,” her voice broke and went up in a wail, “your father’s come home to ye—”
Katrine, who had arisen, stood with tear-stained face regarding her. “He is—?” She could not go on with the question, but Nora answered it without its being finished.
“He has not been drinking. Oh, Miss Katrine, he’s past that! Can’t ye understand? The hand of God’s upon him! He’s called away, Miss Katrine. Ye should have seen him as he crawled to the doorway and fell on it. I got him to his own seat by the window, and he’s wanting you, Miss Katrine, he’s wanting you sore! So I come, in part to tell you, but more to have ye prepare yerself for the change in him, for his end’s in sight!”
Although she was trembling from head to foot and had grown ashen pale, Katrine spoke calmly.
“He came alone?”
Nora shook her head in the affirmative.
“It seems, Miss Katrine, that there was some organic trouble; that the great specialist, whose name is gone from me, warned him not to try the cure. He said the other disease was too far along. But your father wanted to be himself again. It was for you he wanted it. It was the disgrace he was to you that was on his mind always.”
“Ah!” she cried, “there was still enough of the old pride in him for that! We must pretend not to understand that he is ill, we must try just to seem glad that he is back home with us again.”
When Katrine entered the room where her father sat, she found him, as Nora had said, by the window, his head thrown back, his eyes closed; nor did he open them at her coming, though by a poor movement of the hands he made her understand his knowledge of her presence.