Then the torrent broke. At the first hint that she would consider his proposal George Holt drew her to him and talked volumes of impassioned love to her. He gave her no chance to say anything; he said all there was to say himself; he urged that Jardine would come, and she should not be there. He begged, he pleaded, he reasoned. Night found Kate sitting on the back porch at Aunt Ollie’s with a confused memory of having stood beside the little stream with her hand in George Holt’s while she assented to the questions of a Justice of the Peace, in the presence of the School Director and Mrs. Holt. She knew that immediately thereafter they had walked away along a hot, dusty country road; she had tried to eat something that tasted like salted ashes. She could hear George’s ringing laugh of exultation breaking out afresh every few minutes; in sudden irritation at the latest guffaw she clearly remembered one thing: in her dazed and bewildered state she had forgotten to tell him that she was a Prodigal Daughter.
Only one memory in the ten days that followed before her school began ever stood out clearly and distinctly with Kate. That was the morning of the day after she married George Holt. She saw Nancy Ellen and Robert at the gate so she went out to speak with them. Nancy Ellen was driving, she held the lines and the whip in her hands. Kate in dull apathy wondered why they seemed so deeply agitated. Both of them stared at her as if she might be a maniac.
“Is this thing in the morning paper true?” cried Nancy Ellen in a high, shrill voice that made Kate start in wonder. She did not take the trouble to evade by asking “what thing?” she merely made assent with her head.
“You are married to that — that —” Nancy Ellen choked until she could not say what.
“It’s time to stop, since I am married to him,” said Kate, gravely.
“You rushed in and married him without giving Robert time to find out and tell you what everybody knows about him?” demanded Nancy Ellen.
“I married him for what I knew about him myself,” said Kate. “We shall do very well.”
“Do well!” cried Nancy. “Do well! You’ll be hungry and in rags the rest of your life!”
“Don’t, Nancy Ellen, don’t!” plead Robert. “This is Kate’s affair, wait until you hear what she has to say before you go further.”
“I don’t care what she has to say!” cried Nancy Ellen. “I’m saying my say right now. This is a disgrace to the whole Bates family. We may not be much, but there isn’t a lazy, gambling, drunken loafer among us, and there won’t be so far as I’m concerned.”
She glared at Kate who gazed at her in wonder.
“You really married this lout?” she demanded.
“I told you I was married,” said Kate, patiently, for she saw that Nancy Ellen was irresponsible with anger.