“Ah,” he whispered, at length, wiping his brow, “the music’s gone from me. In the whole matter with your mother, Katrine, I was at fault. I was jealous of her gift, of the love she had for it, and made her life miserable by my demandings.” He placed his hand tenderly on her head as he spoke. “Katrine,” he said, solemnly, “with those we love it’s never enough to forgive and forget. One must forgive and try to understand. To forget and forgive. Ah, Katrine, time helps us there! It does almost all of the work, so it’s little credit we need take either for the forgiving or forgetting. But to try to understand! When those we love have hurt us or injured us, to study why it was done: what inherited weakness in them, what fault of their environment brought it about, to study to understand, that’s the real Christianity.”
In the starry watches of the night, wide-eyed and grief-shaken, Katrine took the lesson to heart both for father and lover; learned it with heart and head as well; saw the disarming of criticism, the tolerance, the selflessness which it would bring, and knew that it was good.
But, she demanded of herself, was she large-souled enough to acquire such tolerance toward Francis Ravenel? Leaning on the window-ledge, looking into the clouded darkness of the night, awaiting the hour to give her father the potion that for a time relieved his pain, she went over tenderly, bit by bit, the summer that had passed, that flower-scented, love-illumined summer for which she felt she was to pay with the happiness of a lifetime.
She lived again her first meeting with Frank under the beeches; the recklessness of her own mood because of her father’s drinking; Frank’s lonesomeness at his home-coming; the touching of hands on the old log; the sympathy between them from the first, and at the end asked herself, honestly, who was most to blame. She had done wrong to permit him to kiss her the night under the pine-tree, but she would not have foregone the memory of it for all the world had to offer.
On the last day about noon the pain left her father, and toward evening he asked to be helped to his old place by the window, that he might see the sun go down behind the mountains. “There’s a letter of Mr. Ravenel’s I’d like you to see, Katrine,” he said, motioning her to bring him the carefully treasured bundle of Frank’s writings.
After assisting him to find the desired letter, she sat at his feet with a white face and fixed eyes as he read:
“I met Katrine to-day on the river-bank. She was well and beautiful and happy. It makes me want to be a better man every time I see her. I want to help to make her life happy—” The hand which held the letter suddenly dropped lifeless.
“Father!” she cried. And again: “Oh, father, can you leave me like this?” And as the truth came to her that she was alone, Nature was merciful, and she fell unconscious by her father’s body, with Frank’s letters lying scattered around her on the floor.