“It was,” said Kate. “I had given no man the slightest encouragement, I was perfectly free. John Jardine was courting me openly in the presence of his mother and any one who happened to be around. I intended to marry him. I liked him as much as any man need be liked. I don’t know whether it was the same feeling Nancy Ellen had for Robert Gray or not, but it was a whole lot of feeling of some kind. I was satisfied with it, and he would have been. I meant to be a good wife to him and a good daughter to his mother, and I could have done much good in the world and extracted untold pleasure from the money he would have put in my power to handle. All was going ‘merry as a marriage bell,’ and then this morning came my Waterloo, in the same post with your letter.”
“Do you know what you are doing?” cried George Holt, roughly, losing self-control with hope. “You are proving to me, and admitting to yourself, that you never loved that man at all. You were flattered, and tempted with position and riches, but your heart was not his, or you would be mighty sure of it, don’t you forget that!”
“I am not interested in analyzing exactly what I felt for him,” said Kate. “It made small difference then; it makes none at all now. I would have married him gladly, and I would have been to him all a good wife is to any man; then in a few seconds I turned squarely against him, and lost my respect for him. You couldn’t marry me to him if he were the last and only man on earth; but it hurt terribly, let me tell you that!”
George Holt suddenly arose and went to Kate. He sat down close beside her and leaned toward her.
“There isn’t the least danger of my trying to marry you to him,” he said, “because I am going to marry you myself at the very first opportunity. Why not now? Why not have a simple ceremony somewhere at once, and go away until school begins, and forget him, having a good time by ourselves? Come on, Kate, let’s do it! We can go stay with Aunt Ollie, and if he comes trying to force himself on you, he’ll get what he deserves. He’ll learn that there is something on earth he can’t buy with his money.”
“But I don’t love you,” said Kate.
“Neither did you love him,” retorted George Holt. “I can prove it by what you say. Neither did you love him, but you were going to marry him, and use all his wonderful power of position and wealth, and trust to association to bring love. You can try that with me. As for wealth, who cares? We are young and strong, and we have a fine chance in the world. You go on and teach this year, and I’ll get such a start that by next year you can be riding around in your carriage, proud as Pompey.”
“Of course we could make it all right, as to a living,” said Kate. “Big and strong as we are, but —”