“I refer to Mr. John Jardine, Mrs. Holt,” said the little woman and then Kate saw that she was shaking, and gripping her hands for self-control.
“Very well,” said Kate. “It will save me an unpleasant task if he doesn’t come. Thank you,” and she turned back to the water.
“You certainly didn’t find anything unpleasant about being with him half last night,” said the little woman.
Kate turned again, and looked narrowly at the speaker. Then she laughed heartily. “Well done, Jennie!” she cried. “Why, you are such a fashionable lady, such a Dolly Varden, I never saw who you were. How do you do? Won’t you sit down and have a chat? It’s just dawning on me that very possibly, from your dress and manner, I should have called you Mrs. Jardine.”
“Didn’t he tell you?” cried Jennie.
“He did not,” said Kate. “Your name was not mentioned. He said no word about being married.”
“We have been married since a few weeks after Mrs. Jardine died. I taught him the things you turned him down for not knowing; I have studied him, and waited on him, and borne his children, and this is my reward. What are you going to do?”
“Go back to the hotel, when I finish with this view,” said Kate. “I find it almost as attractive by day as it was by night.”
“Brazen!” cried Mrs. Jardine.
“Choose your words carefully,” said Kate. “I was here first; since you have delivered your message, suppose you go and leave me to my view.”
“Not till I get ready,” said Mrs. Jardine. “Perhaps it will help you to know that I was not twenty feet from you at any time last night; and that I stood where I could have touched you, while my husband made love to you for hours.”
“So?” said Kate. “I’m not at all surprised. That’s exactly what I should have expected of you. But doesn’t it clarify the situation any, at least for me, when I tell you that Mr. Jardine gave me no faintest hint that he was married? If you heard all we said, you surely remember that you were not mentioned?”
Mrs. Jardine sat down suddenly and gripped her little hands. Kate studied her intently. She wondered what she would look like when her hair was being washed; at this thought she smiled broadly. That made the other woman frantic.
“You can well laugh at me,” she said. “I made the banner fool of the ages of myself when I schemed to marry him. I knew he loved you. He told me so. He told me, just as he told you last night, that he never had loved any other woman and he never would. I thought he didn’t know himself as I knew him. He was so grand to his mother, I thought if I taught him, and helped him back to self-respect, and gave him children, he must, and would love me. Well, I was mistaken. He does not, and never will. Every day he thinks of you; not a night but he speaks your name. He thinks all things can be done with money — "