Nancy Ellen seemed interested so Kate proceeded: “You couldn’t guess in a thousand years. I’ll have to tell you spang! It was his wife.”
“His wife!” cried Nancy Ellen. “But you said — "
“So I did,” said Kate. “And so he did. Since the wife loomed on the horizon, I remembered that he said no word to me of marriage; he merely said he always had loved me and always would — "
“Merely?” scoffed Nancy Ellen. “Merely!”
“Just ‘merely,’” said Kate. “He didn’t lay a finger on me; he didn’t ask me to marry him; he just merely met me after a long separation, and told me that he still loved me.”
“The brute!” said Nancy Ellen. “He should be killed.”
“I can’t see it,” said Kate. “He did nothing ungentlemanly. If we jumped to wrong conclusions that was not his fault. I doubt if he remembered or thought at all of his marriage. It wouldn’t be much to forget. I am fresh from an interview with his wife. She’s an old acquaintance of mine. I once secured her for his mother’s maid. You’ve heard me speak of her.”
“Impossible! John Jardine would not do that!” cried Nancy Ellen.
“There’s a family to prove it,” said Kate. “Jennie admits that she studied him, taught him, made herself indispensable to him, and a few weeks after his mother’s passing, married him, after he had told her he did not love her and never could. I feel sorry for him.”
“Sure! Poor defrauded creature!” said Nancy Ellen. “What about her?”
“Nothing, so far as I can see,” said Kate. “By her own account she was responsible. She should have kept in her own class.”
“All right. That settles Jennie!” said Nancy Ellen. “I saw you notice the telegram from Robert — now go on and settle me!”
“Is he coming?” asked Kate.
“No, he’s not coming,” said Nancy Ellen.
“Has he eloped with the widder?” asked Kate flippantly.
“He merely telegraphs that he thinks it would be wise for us to come home on the first train,” said Nancy Ellen. “For all I can make of that, the elopement might quite as well be in your family as mine.”
Kate held out her hand, Nancy Ellen laid the message in it. Kate studied it carefully; then she raised steady eyes to her sister’s face.
“Do you know what I should do about this?” she asked.
“Catch the first train, of course,” she said.
“Far be it from me,” said Kate. “I should at once telegraph him that his message was not clear, to kindly particularize. We’ve only got settled. We’re having a fine time; especially right now. Why should we pack up and go home? I can’t think of any possibility that could arise that would make it necessary for him to send for us. Can you?”
“I can think of two things,” said Nancy Ellen. “I can think of a very pretty, confiding, little cat of a woman, who is desperately infatuated with my husband; and I can think of two children fathered by George Holt, who might possibly, just possibly, have enough of his blood in their veins to be like him, given opportunity. Alone for a week, there is barely a faint possibility that you might be needed. Alone for the same week, there is the faintest possibility that Robert is in a situation where I could help him.”