“I think so, too,” he said. He did not add his suspicions that Katie was acting upon the covert suggestions of his father which had so disturbed her conscience that she declared she must be satisfied that the whole thing was a falsehood of Harwin’s.
“I wish we could find him,” said Elizabeth.
“So do I”, answered Archdale under his breath. She looked at him quickly and away again, feeling that her last wish had not been a wise one. “Yet” pursued Archdale, “you see that if Harwin’s story is false, the whole matter drops there, and that would make it simpler, to say the least of it. Katie does not like the idea of having the court obliged to decide about it. She says it seems like a divorce.”
“Do I like it?” she said. “But anything is better than this.”
“Yes,” he answered, then seemed as if he would like to take back his frank confession. She smiled at him.
“Don’t try to soften it, Mr. Archdale. We both mean that. You speak honestly because you are honest and understand what I want, too; because you are wise enough to believe in the absurdity of this whole affair.”
“You did not think it absurd at first,” he answered.
“I was overwhelmed. I had no time to consider.”
“No,” he said, “only time to feel.”
“Don’t speak of that day,” and she shuddered. “If I were to live a thousand years, there never could be another so horrible.”
He had risen to go. He stood a moment silent. Then:
“You are so reassuring,” he said. “Yet, how can either of us be assured? Perhaps you are my wife.”
“Never,” she said, and looked at him with a sudden coldness in her face.
“If a minister has married us,” he answered, “nobody has yet unmarried us.”
The gravity of her expression impressed him.
“God has not married us,” she said. “I shall never admit that.” There was a moment’s silence. “Poor Katie!” she added.
“Yes, poor Katie,—and Mistress Royal.”
Elizabeth smiled sadly.
“You remember that?” she asked. “It would not be strange if you forgot everybody but Katie, and yourself.”
“It would be strange if I forgot you, since you are,—what you are.”
“I foresee,” she answered, “that we shall be good friends. By and by, when you and Katie are well established in your beautiful new house I shall visit you there; Katie invited me long ago, and you and I are going to be good friends.”