“Little Katrine,” he said, while two great tears welled from under the closed lids. “Little Bother-the-House! I have come back to you. There is no one can help me except you.”
Katrine made a swift movement to be near him. Kneeling, she drew his poor, sorrowing head to her breast, and in the twilight these two, the one so old and weak and loving, the other so young and desolate and brave, clung to each other, blinded by the vision of the separation so soon to be.
In nearly every crisis of life there comes some twist in affairs which seems to turn the screws harder or sets them to making one flinch in a new and unexpected place. In Katrine’s case it was a turn which made life so unbearable that there were times when she would be forced to bite her lips and set her teeth to keep back a moan, while for hours at a time Patrick Dulany iterated and reiterated the kindness, the thoughtfulness, the goodness to him of Francis Ravenel.
“There was never a day, Katrine, while I was at the hospital, that I had not a letter from him. Money was spent for me like water. The doctor told me he had orders to spare nothing. Ay, there’s not another man in the world who would do for a stranger what Mr. Ravenel tried to do for me. And sometimes he’d write drolly, you know his way, that he’d seen ye somewhere, riding, mayhap, or in the garden, or had heard a note of your music as he rode by; and the home feeling would come back to me, and I’d take heart again.”
KATRINE IS LEFT ALONE
In the ten days before her father’s death nothing seemed spared Katrine. The hopeless life of the man was recounted to her hour by hour, interspersed with the rereadings of Frank’s letters, and, most of all, with remorse at the desolate place he had prepared for her when he had gone.
“But ye’ll have a friend in Mr. Ravenel,” he told her, earnestly. “One who will help you, Katrine, and ye need have no fear to take his help. He is one who has a high thought for women and would never betray a trust. It’s a great comfort to me to know ye’ve him, Katrine.”
On the day before the end his grief was bitter to hear.
“My little wee lassie,” he sobbed, “I’m leaving ye alone with nothing; none to shield you, none to care, but just one friend. I’m going out, and it’s good I’m going. I would always have held you back, always have been a drag to your name—for ye’ll make a name! It’s in you, as it was in her.” He stopped speaking, but after a little space began, with a crooning, the glorious “Ah, Patria Mia,” and it seemed to Katrine as though her heart would stop beating in her sorrow, for she knew it was her unknown mother of whom he thought.