When the ladies were leaving, Dermott took the situation in both hands, as it were, by rising with them and turning a laughing face to the men, who were calling his name.
“I’m going to join the ladies now, if they will have me!” he cried. “I have less of their society than I like, belonging, as I do, to the working-classes. And besides,” he waved a hand, white and beautifully slender, toward them, “I know you all, unfortunately well, as it is!”
A chorus of friendly insults were thrown after him, but he dropped the curtain with no further word, and an hour later Frank encountered him walking slowly up and down the terrace in the moonlight with Katrine.
They were talking earnestly, McDermott urging something which Francis was glad to see Katrine was far from yielding. Twice he saw her shake her head with great firmness, and once, as they came near him, he heard her say, “I will not, Dermott,” and, knowing the girl as he did, Frank felt that, whatever the matter, it was settled with finality.
Try as he surely did, he found it impossible to have a word alone with her that evening, and the next morning he learned from the servants that her luggage was to be taken to the station the following day at an early hour.
She was not at luncheon, and Frank was meditating on the possibility of leaving with her on the early train, when a note was brought to him by her maid.
Would you care to walk
with me now? [it read] I should like to tell
you something before I leave.
This was surely the unexpected, and he waited for her on the portico with the feeling that there was some mistake, and that the maid might reappear any minute to ask the missive back again.
But Katrine herself came around the corner from the greenhouses and called to him from below. She wore a black walking-skirt, a black leather jacket, and a three-cornered black hat, and Frank involuntarily compared this very aristocratic-looking young person with the little girl in the short-waisted frocks he had known, so many years ago, it seemed, in North Carolina.
In silence they went down the driveway to the beach road, along the path to the cliffs. There was a chill in the sea-wind, for the afternoon sun gave only a rose-red glow, but little warmth, as they stood looking at the crumpled reflections in the water. “It is almost sunset,” Frank began, abruptly, drawing nearer to her. “It might almost be a North Carolina sunset, mightn’t it? I don’t know, Katrine, what you want of me, but I want, for the sake of that summer full of sunsets which we knew together, that you should let me tell my story and judge me—finest woman—that—ever—lived—judge me after the telling as it may seem just for you to do!”
There was a piteous quiver of her lips as her eyes looked bravely into his as she nodded an acquiescence.
“When I left you, Katrine, like the coward I was, that dreadful morning, so long ago, I wandered around like an Ishmaelite, more wretched than I believed it possible for a human creature to be, longing for you, always, day and night, waking with a convulsion of pain in the gray of the morning, but still obstinately determined to marry none but some one whom my forebears would have considered ‘suitable.’” He smiled at the word.