And yet with all this pressure the young girl had held her own. To every one outside the Rutter clan she had insisted that she was sorry for Harry, but that she could never marry a man whose temper she could not trust. She never put this into words in answering the well-meant inquiries of such girl friends as Nellie Murdoch, Sue Dorsey, and the others; then her eyes would only fill with tears as she begged them not to question her further. Nor had she said as much to her father, who on one occasion had asked her the plump question—“Do you still intend to marry that hot-head?”—to which she had returned the equally positive answer—“No, I never shall!” She reserved her full meaning for St. George when he should again entreat her—as she knew he would at the first opportunity—to forget the past and begin the old life once more.
At the end of the second week St. George had made up his mind as to his course; and at the end of the third the old diplomat, who had dared defeat before, boldly mounted the Seymour steps. He would appeal to Harry’s love for her, and all would be well. He had done so before, picturing the misery the boy was suffering, and he would try it again. If he could only reach her heart through the armor of her reserve she would yield.
She answered his cheery call up the stairway in person, greeting him silently, but with arms extended, leading him to a seat beside her, where she buried her face in her hands and burst into tears.
“Harry has tried to see you every day, Kate,” he began, patting her shoulders lovingly in the effort to calm her. “I found him under your window the other night; he walks the streets by the hour, then he comes home exhausted, throws himself on his bed, and lies awake till daylight.”
The girl raised her head and looked at him for a moment. She knew what he had come for—she knew, too, how sorry he felt for her—for Harry—for everybody who had suffered because of this horror.
“Uncle George,” she answered, choking back her tears, speaking slowly, weighing each word—“you’ve known me from a little girl—ever since my dear mother died. You have been a big brother to me many, many times and I love you for it. If I were determined to do anything that would hurt me, and you found it out in time, you would come and tell me so, wouldn’t you?”
St. George nodded his head in answer, but he did not interrupt. Her heart was being slowly unrolled before him, and he would wait until it was all bare.
“Now,” she continued, “the case is reversed, and you want me to do something which I know will hurt me.”
“But you love him, Kate?”
“Yes—that is the worst part of it all,” she answered with a stifled sob—“yes, I love him.” She lifted herself higher on the cushions and put her beautiful arms above her head, her eyes looking into space as if she was trying to solve the problem of what her present resolve would mean to both herself and Harry.