But Katrine’s utter honesty was a thing Dermott had not calculated upon. “Dermott,” she said, “I have always tried to be frank with you, haven’t I?”
“And at times,” he broke in, with a smile, “have succeeded discouragingly well.”
“I want to be so still. Madame de Nemours has told me the story of Ravenel.”
McDermott waited, serene, inspiredly silent.
“But,” Katrine went on, “I was a bit prepared for it. Almost the last thing father said to me before he died was that you were planning trouble for Mr. Ravenel.”
McDermott waited still, but with a sterner look upon his keen and ardent face.
“Madame de Nemours has told me you need only a paper and a certain witness at Tours to carry out your purpose. Is it true?”
“And that purpose is—” She hesitated.
“To see justice done to Madame de Nemours,” he answered.
“It will mean that Mr. Ravenel has no right either to his home or his name?”
The pleading and protest in her voice did not escape Dermott as he answered:
“It will mean just that!”
“And nothing can move you from your purpose?”
“Nothing that I can now think of,” he answered, adding with some vehemence: “Katrine Dulany, is it that you know me so little? My cousin suffered much. She was deserted by a scoundrel while little more than a child. These things must be paid for. But if you think I’d do a crooked thing in business to settle a grudge or belittle a rival, you don’t know me at all. There’s none, not Ravenel himself, who will demand everything proven beyond doubt sooner than I. I’ll take every point I can honestly, but the man who is not absolutely honest in business is a fool. Until he learns to be honest from the higher reason, he should be honest from selfishness. It pays. It’s capital.”
“Then you believe the cause just?”
“I believe that the present Ravenel’s father married in America knowing that he had a living wife and child in France.”
Katrine stood, hand-clasped, looking straight into Dermott’s eyes. But what she saw was an old garden in Carolina, wind-blown pines, the scarlet creepers around an old bench, and a man with blanched face and restless eyes; what she heard, underneath Dermott’s voice, were words from the past:
"I might lie to you, but the thing that separates us is family pride, family pride. I am going away to-day, going because I do not dare to stay!"
“Nothing else in life could hurt Mr. Ravenel as this thing will if proven,” she said, at length.
“Naturally not,” McDermott answered, succinctly; “but it is not proven yet,” he added, in an impartial tone, adding, “I have not been able to find the witness I need.”
Was it Katrine’s imagination that made her think the door moved suddenly as by human agency? Had some of the servants been listening? She paused in her talk, and, looking into the hall, saw Quantrelle the Red pass quickly up the stairs with his daily flower for Madame de Nemours.