It was nearly a year since Dane had ridden through the rain and met Harriet. Not much had changed in Dane, though everything had changed in Catherine. She was fully happy. Joy exuded from her smile and her eyes. Her step was light to match her heart. Her joy seemed untouchable. Though she lost Harriet for a time, she knew she would be with her again. She thought that should she lose everything, she would not feel any differently, for she was still a daughter of the King, and that never could change.
It was a cold winter day, and Catherine was ready to brave the winter winds and ride to St. Donatus to spend a few days with her mother and father. Elizabeth seemed in as good of health as she ever had been, and she continued to bake bread and collect eggs daily. Her father, Charles, was not faring so well. His mining days were all but over. He coughed often and puffed on his pipe. Yet, with the help of their hired hand since Catherine’s marriage, they had been able to maintain their living even so.
She was packing her bags and humming a hymn when Dane approached.
“Yes,” she turned around with a smile.
“Yes. What happened?”
“I don’t rightly know. A few years ago, I suppose.” Catherine knew what he meant. She had changed. Just like Harriet had told her the night they met- she had switched out her insides. She was a different person. She had tried to tell Dane how God had changed her, but he did not want to believe it. He kept saying he didn’t want to be forced into a church. Catherine had promised him she never would. But she knew that he could not help but see what a different sort of woman she had become.
“Oh Dane, I tried to tell you. Over, and over I have tried to tell you, but you didn’t want to hear. ”
“About church, I know. But not that.”
“Well, it’s not about church, really. It was more that I came to believe…..or rather I was faced with the reality that I was not a good sort of woman. And having come to realize I was not a good sort of woman, I had also come to see forgiveness and life and purpose, and meaning beyond anything I thought possible.” There was a brief pause and they looked at one another.
“I thought…” His face looked pained. She came to him.
“You thought what, dear?”
“I thought. That you had taken a lover.” Her eyebrows seemed to shoot up of their own accord. “Well, you can hardly blame me, Catherine. You were leaving nearly every day at the same hour and heading in the same direction and always claiming you were having tea with a friend. I knew of none of your friends, neither had I ever met this one. You had never had this friend over to our home, never offered to introduce me. You always came back with a light in your eyes, and I was certain you had taken a lover. I was enraged, but I could not prove it. Neither could I ask you.”
“Why on earth could you not?”
“Because if you had taken a lover, I knew that you would not be able to admit it, and you would take greater pains to hide it and I might never know for sure who he was. So, and I know I had no real right, but I followed you.”
“The day you showed up in the rain.”
“Yes, the day I showed up in the rain. You must understand. I couldn’t bear the thought of my wife in another man’s arms.It was only then that I realized how very much you do mean to me, that I would do anything to keep you and that I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you. Couldn’t bear the image of you in another man’s embrace. I was so certain that was how I would find you. I was so angry I could hardly feel the rain soaking through to the bone. I was furious. As furious as ever I’ve felt. I was going to tear him limb from limb. I hardly knew what my next move would be, but I was not certain whether this man would make it out alive. I was certain I would never lay a hand on you, but he was going to pay with his life. I was seething with anger as I followed you that day. I could hardly see straight. I watched you go in. I waited. I wanted to be sure to catch you in the act. I wanted there to be no doubt. As I waited what seemed enough time, I wondered who he was and what he gave you that I could not. It seemed like an eternity before I finally knocked, ready to bust through the door. I did not expect an answer. You can imagine my surprise when you opened the door, and there you were having tea with an old woman.”
Catherine could not contain herself. The hilarity of it was too much, and though Dane poured his heart out to her for the first time in years, she could not contain the laughter. It bursted out of her, a deep infectious laughter. Dane laughed too, deep and long. They laughed together until their stomachs cramped and their mouths ached and they had to wipe tears from the outer corners of their eyes. Catherine was not sure whether it was the incident itself which was so funny as to merit this kind of uncontrolled laughter, or whether it was that they had not laughed together in so very long that neither of them wanted it to end. It was good to talk about Harriet, to think about her, and to laugh. When finally the laughter died down, she found herself in his arms, a place she had not been for five long years.