Meanwhile, John Derringham lay betwixt life and death and was watched over by the kind eye of Arabella Clinker. She had gathered quite a number of facts in the night, while she had listened to his feverish ravings—he was light-headed for several hours before the nurses came—then the fever had decreased and though extremely weak he was silent.
Arabella knew now that he loved Halcyone—that wood nymph they had seen during their Easter Sunday walk—and that he had been going to meet her when the accident had happened. The rest was a jumble of incoherent phrases all giving the impression of intense desire and anxiety for some special event. It was:
“Then we shall be happy, my sweet,” or “Halcyone, you will not think me a brute, then, will you, my darling,” and there were more just detached words about an oak tree, and a goddess and such like vaporings.
But Arabella felt that, no doubt the moment he would be fully conscious, he would wish to send some message—for during the two following days whenever she went in to see him there was a hungering demand in his haggard eyes.
So Miss Clinker took it upon herself to stop at the Professor’s house on one of her walks, meaning to beard Cheiron in his den, and find out how—should it be necessary—she could communicate with Halcyone. And then she was informed by Mrs. Porrit that her master would be away for a fortnight, and that Miss Halcyone La Sarthe had been taken off by her stepmother—she did not know where—and that the two old ladies had actually gone that day, with Hester and old William, to some place on the Welsh coast they had known when they were children, for a change to the sea! La Sarthe Chase was shut up. Arabella Clinker was not sufficiently acquainted with the habits of its inmates to appreciate the unparalleled upheaval this dislodgment meant, but she saw that her informant was highly surprised and impressed.
“I expect the poor old gentry felt too lonely to stop, once that dear Miss Halcyone was gone,” Mrs. Porrit said, “but there, when I heard it you could have knocked me down with a feather!—them to go to the sea!”
All this looked hopeless as far as communicating with Halcyone went—unless through a letter to the Professor. Arabella returned to Wendover rather cast down.
She had been reasoning with herself severely over a point, and when her letter went to her mother on the next Sunday, she was still undecided as to what was her course of duty, and craved her parent’s advice.
The case is this [she wrote]. Being quite aware of M. E.’s intentions, am I being disloyal to her, in helping to frustrate them by aiding Mr. Derringham to establish communications with the person whom I have already vaguely hinted to you I believe he is interested in? I do not feel it is altogether honorable to take my salary from M. E. and to go against what I know to be the strong desire of her life at the present time.