“A marriage has been arranged and will shortly take place between the Right Honorable John Derringham of Derringham in the County of Northampton, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Mrs. Vincent Cricklander of New York, daughter of Orlando B. Muggs of Pittsburgh, U.S.A.”
And it was here that the La Sarthe breeding stood Halcyone in good stead, for she neither fainted nor dropped the paper—but, after a few seconds of acute anguish, she rose and, making some little remark about having forgotten something, quietly left the room.
It is possible that, if his revolver had been lying quite near, the morning John Derringham awoke to the remembrance that he was more or less an engaged man, he would have shot himself, so utterly wretched and debased did he feel. But no such weapon was there, and he lay in his splendid gilt bed and groaned aloud as he covered his eyes with his hand.
The light hurt him—he was giddy, and his head swam. Surely, among other things in the half-indistinct nightmare of the preceding evening, he must have had too much champagne.
From the moment, now over a week ago, that he had been allowed to sit up in bed, and more or less distinct thought had come back to him, he had been a prey to hideous anxiety and grief. Halcyone was gone from him—had been snatched away by Fate, who, with relentless vindictiveness, had filled his cup. For the first letters that he opened, marked from his lawyers so urgently that they had been given to him before the bandages were off his head, contained the gravest news of his financial position. The chief mortgagee intended to foreclose in the course of the next three months, unless an arrangement could be come to at once, which appeared impossible.
He was actually at bay. Thus, although in his first moments of consciousness, he had intended to go directly he was well and demand his love openly and chance the rest, this news made that course now quite out of the question. He could not condemn her to wretched poverty and tie a millstone round both their necks. The doctors had absolutely forbidden him to read or even know of any more letters—the official ones the secretary could deal with—but he became so restless with anxiety that Arabella Clinker was persuaded to bring them up and at least let him glance at the addresses.
There was one from Cheiron, which he insisted upon opening—a brief dry line of commiseration for his accident, with no mention of Halcyone in it. The complete ignoring of his letter to announce their marriage cut him deeply. He realized Mr. Carlyon guessed that the accident had happened before that event could take place, and his silence about it showed what he thought. John Derringham quivered with discomfort, he hated to feel the whip of his old master’s contempt. And he could not explain matters or justify himself—there was nothing to be