“If I were her brother I would warn her that her present career, though very delightful now, is not one upon which she will look back with pleasure when the excitement is over,” he said to himself; “but if Wilford is satisfied it is not for me to interfere. It is surely nothing to me what Katy Cameron does,” he kept repeating to himself; but as often as he said it there came up before him a pale, anxious face, shaded with Helen Lennox’s bands of hair, and Helen Lennox’s voice whispered to him: “Save Katy, for my sake;” and so next day, when Mark found himself alone with Katy, while most of the guests were at the beach, he questioned her of her life at Saratoga and Newport, and gradually, as he talked, there crept into Katy’s heart a suspicion that he was not altogether pleased with her account, or with what he had seen of her since his arrival.
For a moment Katy was indignant, but when he said to her kindly: “Would Helen he pleased?” her tears started at once, and she attempted an excuse for her weak folly, accusing Sybil Grandon as the first cause of the ambition for which she hated herself.
“She had been held up as my pattern,” she said, half bitterly, and forgetting to whom she was talking—“she the one whom I was to imitate; and when I found that if I would I could go beyond her, I yielded to the temptation, and exulted to see how far she was left behind. Besides that,” she continued, “is it no gratification, think you, to let Wilford’s proud mother and sister see the poor country girl, whom ordinarily they would despise, stand where they cannot come, and even dictate to them if she chooses so to do? I know it is wrong—I know it is wicked—but I rather like the excitement, and so long as I am with these people I shall never be any better. Mark Ray, you don’t know what it is to be surrounded by a set who care for nothing but fashion and display, and how they may outdo each other. I hate New York society. There is nothing there but husks.”
Katy’s tears had ceased, and on her white face there was a new look of womanhood, as if in that outburst she had changed, and would never again be just what she was before.
“Say,” she continued, “do you like New York society?”
“Not always—not wholly,” Mark answered; “and still you misjudge it greatly, for all are not like the people you describe. Your husband’s family represent one extreme, while there are others equally high in the social scale who do not make fashion the rule of their lives—sensible, cultivated, intellectual people, of whose acquaintance one might be glad—people whom I fancy your Sister Helen would enjoy. I have only met her twice, it is true, but my impression is that she would not find New York utterly distasteful.”
Mark did not know why he had dragged Helen into that conversation, unless it were that she seemed very near to him as he talked with Katy, who replied:
“Yes, Helen finds some good in all. She sees differently from what I do, and I wish so much that she was here.”