Edward Cossey also, thanks chiefly to Belle’s tender nursing, had almost recovered, with one exception—he was, and would be for life, stone deaf in the right ear. The paralysis which the doctors feared had not shown itself. One of his first questions when he became convalescent was addressed to Belle Quest.
As in a dream, he had always seen her sweet face hanging over him, and dimly known that she was ministering to him.
“Have you nursed me ever since the accident, Belle?” he said.
“Yes,” she answered.
“It is very good of you, considering all things,” he murmured. “I wonder that you did not let me die.”
But she turned her face to the wall and never said a word, nor did any further conversation on these matters pass between them.
Then as his strength came back so did his passion for Ida de la Molle revive. He was not allowed to write or even receive letters, and with this explanation of her silence he was fain to content himself. But the Squire, he was told, often called to inquire after him, and once or twice Ida came with him.
At length a time came—it was two days after he had been told of his father’s death—when he was pronounced fit to be moved into his own rooms and to receive his correspondence as usual.
The move was effected without any difficulty, and here Belle bade him good-bye. Even as she did so George drove his fat pony up to the door, and getting down gave a letter to the landlady, with particular instructions that it was to be delivered into Mr. Cossey’s own hands. As she passed Belle saw that it was addressed in the Squire’s handwriting.
When it was delivered to him Edward Cossey opened it with eagerness. It contained an inclosure in Ida’s writing, and this he read first. It ran as follows:
“Dear Mr. Cossey,—
“I am told that you are now able to read letters, so I hasten to write to you. First of all, let me say how thankful I am that you are in a fair way to complete recovery from your dreadful accident. And now I must tell you what I fear will be almost as painful to you to read as it is for me to write, namely, that the engagement between us is at an end. To put the matter frankly, you will remember that I rightly or wrongly became engaged to you on a certain condition. That condition has not been fulfilled, for Mr. Quest, to whom the mortgages on my father’s property have been transferred by you, is pressing for their payment. Consequently the obligation on my part is at an end, and with it the engagement must end also, for I grieve to tell you that it is not one which my personal inclination will induce me to carry out. Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery, and every happiness and prosperity in your future life, believe me, dear Mr. Cossey,
“Ida de la Molle.”
He put down this uncompromising and crushing epistle and nervously glanced at the Squire’s, which was very short.