“Have you heard” he asked after a time, “that Sir Temple and Lady Dacre have written that they are coming to visit us,—us, Katie? You remember they had an invitation to our wedding,—they shall have another, dearest,—and could not come then, but they propose paying us a visit in our own home at Seascape where they suppose we are living now, you and I. I told you about my staying with them in England and asking them to visit me when I was married. I was thinking then of my chances of being engaged to you, Katie.”
“Yes, you told me of them,” she said, and after a pause added, “You will have to write them the truth.”
“It is too late for that to do any good. They follow close on the heels of the letter; that is, by the next ship.”
“Then I suppose Aunt Faith will take them, either at your father’s, or at Seascape. Which will it be, Stephen?”
“That house! It can never be opened until you do it, Katie; you know that well enough.”
The girl sighed. Yet with all the sadness of her lot it was delightful to be loved and mourned over in this way; mourned over, and yet perhaps not lost.
“I don’t know about that being the best way,” she returned slowly. “You know Stephen, Uncle Walter is peculiar, and you could not entertain your guests yourself; you would not have freedom. Really, it would not be quite as nice for you.”
“Always thinking of me,” he cried. “It seems now that the only freedom I care about is the freedom to make you my wife, Katie.”
“Yes,” she sighed again and was silent a moment. Then she said, “But Stephen, if Aunt Faith is there, you know it won’t be like anybody else, and you can show them the house I am going to have. Do you believe that?” she broke out suddenly. “Do you really believe that? This uncertainty is killing me—don’t imagine that I could not wait for years, I am not dying for you, Stephen; I should not do such a thing, of course. But not to know! I must know soon; life is unendurable under such a strain.”
“Poor little girl, she was not made, surely, to bear suffering,” thought Archdale. And he went away assured that she was most of all to be pitied, that she was least protected from the North wind which was blowing against them all three. As to the house, she should certainly have her way about it. He saw that she was sacrificing her own feelings for him. She did not understand that it was making matters a great deal harder, she thought that she was making it pleasanter for him. Well, she should have the satisfaction of believing she had done so. It did not occur to him that the girl had taken the most effectual way of awaking a sentimental interest in the persons who were imagining that they were to be her guests. Katie was one of those people who illustrate the use of the velvet glove, for in spite of her sprightliness, she was considered the gentlest little creature in the Colonies.