Far into the night, lying sleepless, with his hands folded under his head, there came a light tap at his door, and he knew his mother had come to him. She wore a rose-colored dressing-gown, and at sight of it he remembered, with tenderness, how she had always longed “to be beautiful to him.”
Kneeling by the bed, she put her gentle arms around his neck, laying her soft cheek against his own. And the way everything in life falls down before mother-love could surely never be shown better than in her talk with him, in which she renounced almost every inherited belief to try to make life happier for him.
“Onliest One!” she said. It was her baby name for him.
“Yes, Miss Cora,” he answered. They were the first words, learned from the negroes, that his childhood lips had ever formed.
“I couldn’t sleep. You remember how I never could bear to see you suffer. I seem to go mad, to lose all self-control if you are not happy. And I came to tell you that it isn’t true, that talk about marriage. I know it. I knew it when I taught you all the foolishness about family and position, and helped you to have the pride of Lucifer. Ah,” she cried, “I suffered enough to know it isn’t true! There is just one thing on earth that makes marriage endurable: a great and overmastering love. Marriage is the one thing about which for the good of the race, for the good of the race,” she repeated, “we have a right to be divinely selfish.”
“Perhaps it’s true, mother mine, but the knowledge comes too late.”
“No, it hasn’t, boy!” she answered. “It hasn’t. If I were a man and wanted a woman, I wouldn’t let her wishes interfere in the matter. I would carry her off, if necessary. It was a good, old-time way—that!” she cried, earnestly.
“Mother! Mother! Mother!” Frank remonstrated, with a laugh, though with tears in his eyes.
“And you will have her if you want her; for you are so beautiful and dear and sweet, no woman could help loving you.”
And with this biased assurance he fell asleep, as she sat by his bedside with her hand on his cheek.
MCDERMOTT VISITS HIS FRENCH COUSIN
It was true that Dermott’s sudden departure for Europe had troubled Frank. But it would have disturbed him more had he known the truth, for McDermott was not only bent upon seeing Katrine, but was stirring another trouble for Frank, a trouble which McDermott felt had already slept too long.
The week before the Irishman sailed (it was the very day upon which he decided, with a laugh to himself, to give up the railroad fight and allow the new company to build the road on the Ravenel land) he wrote his French cousin, the Countess de Nemours, thus: