“Ah, Ravenel,” he cried, “I have been staying at the Crosbys’, and heard but last night from Miss Dulany that you were here! I accepted the invitation Van Rensselaer hadn’t yet given me to ride over and stay awhile. I am,” and here he had the superb impudence to adjust an eyeglass for a complete survey of Frank, “I am interested in your doings just now, Ravenel, very much interested,” he repeated, with a smile.
“I WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU”
After a brief exchange of incivilities with Dermott, Frank went to his own room with a flushed cheek, a kindling eye, and something like a song of victory singing low and strong in his heart. It was a strange mood to follow such an interview, for there was scarcely a sentence of his during the talk with Katrine of which he was not ashamed. The lack of taste, of delicacy, the rawness of his conduct came back to him, producing a singular sense of elation; for by them he realized that his love was a thing stronger than himself; a thing which carried him along with it; buffeted him, did with him as it would, while considered conduct and the well-turned phrase stood pushed aside to watch the torrent as it passed.
There had been times when he feared that his ancestry of inherited self-indulgence had left him without the ability to desire anything continuously or over-masteringly, feared that he was over-raced, with no grasp nor feeling for the jugular vein of events. These had been unworded doubts of his concerning himself in the three years past. But after the talk with Katrine he knew himself capable of great love, of love which was stronger than himself, and the new manhood in him gloried in the surrender.
He dressed early, hoping to have a word with Katrine before the other guests came down, but she was the last to enter the drawing-room before dinner was announced. Standing by the doorway, he saw her coming along the wide hall alone. She wore black, unqualified black, low and sleeveless. Her hair, which seemed blacker than the gown, was worn high, not in the loose curls he knew so well, but in some statelier manner, with an old jewelled comb placed like a coronet, and she held herself more aloof from him than ever before, her eyes avoiding his glance and her cheeks exquisitely flushed.
But at sight of Dermott her bearing changed, and Frank saw with jealousy that she went quickly toward the Irishman, holding out both hands and saying, “Dermott,” in a voice which seemed to have a sob in it as well as a claim for protection.
During dinner Ireland was easily triumphant, for while Katrine sat at Nicholas van Rensselaer’s right, Dermott had been placed on her other side, and Frank, sitting by deaf old Mrs. van Rensselaer, had abundant time to mark McDermott’s gift for society. “One might think him the host,” Ravenel thought, critically, noting that the laugh, the jokes, the gallantries were ever in the Irishman’s vicinity, and the head of the table was easily where the McDermott sat.