“I have been with her constantly since—the crisis is past, but she is still too ill for me to leave her. I am coming to you just as soon as I can. And I am going to ask you to forgive me, to take me and make whatever you can out of my worthless self. Whatever of good there is in me has come through you. You have given me belief in purity and selflessness and hope of achievement.
me as I was; don’t do that, Little One; only
hope to be; as I hope you will help me to be. I am coming for your
answer the first minute I can get away.
There had been many reasons for not sending this letter: his mother’s illness; his sudden plunge into business; but underneath all was the fear, which grew larger day by day, that he might receive from Katrine the rebuff which his conduct toward her so richly merited.
Uncertainly he held the letter, reviewing one of the curious turns that life had taken in giving Katrine an ally in his mother.
On one of his week-end visits to Bar Harbor, where Mrs. Ravenel was still staying, her old gayety had led her one evening to the teasing subject of his marrying. He was standing by the open casement, looking into the twilight over the sea, when he answered her, and he could not hide the break in his voice as he spoke. “I have the misfortune to love the wrong woman, mother!”
“Frank!” The cry of alarm and tenderness and protest touched him strangely.
“Yes,” he went on, “and it’s a hard fight.”
She came near, putting her hand tenderly on his cheek. “Ah,” she said, “my boy, my boy!”
He drew her to him, and for the minute he seemed, indeed, a boy again, coming to this sure haven of comfort, to the place where he had never been criticised or told that he was wrong. “Yes, lady mother, I’m hard hit. I fell in love with one whom I didn’t think it square to the family to marry. We have never made mis-alliances, in this country or the other. I believed, and I believe still, that a man owes it to his descendants, to the furthest generation, to marry for them. I believed, and I believe still, that marriage is far less a matter of personal inclination than most people consider it to be. I believe that when a man marries a woman he does not marry her alone, but all of her ancestors, and that he may expect to see the maternal grandfathers appearing again in his own grandchildren.”
“Certainly, dear,” Mrs. Ravenel acquiesced, in a tone which indicated there could be but one opinion on such a subject.
“You know how firmly I have believed this always, mother!”
She pressed his hand for reply.
“I told her that I could never marry her. But the thing was too strong for me—I went away from the place where she was. Oh,” he cried, in a heat of self-abasing, “I grow cold when I think what a cad I was! I hurt her so! But I did, too late, what I thought was right, what I had been trained to do.”