Mrs. Cricklander had carefully gone through each post as it came, and longed to destroy one or two suspicious-looking communications she saw in the same female handwriting—from his old friend Lady Durend, if she had known!—but she dared not, and indeed was not really much disturbed. She had laid her own plans with too great a nicety and felt perfectly sure of the ultimate result of their action. Arabella was each day sent up with the subtlest messages to the poor invalid, which her honor made her unwillingly repeat truthfully.
Cecilia Cricklander was an angel of sweet, watchful care, it seemed, and John Derringham really felt deeply grateful to her.
Then the moment came when she decided she would see him.
“I will go this afternoon at tea-time, Arabella, if you can assure me there won’t be any horrid smell of carbolic or nasty drugs about—I know there always are when people have cuts to be dressed, and I really could not stand it. It would give me one of my bad attacks of nerves.”
And Miss Clinker was reluctantly obliged to assure her employer that those days were passed, and that Mr. Derringham now only looked a pale, but very interesting invalid, as he lay there with a black silk handkerchief tied round his head.
“Then I’ll go,” said Mrs. Cricklander—and, instead of sending the message with her daily flowers, she wrote a tiny note.
I can’t bear it any longer—I
Arabella Clinker watched his face as he read this, and saw a flush grow in his ivory-pale skin.
“Oh! Poor Mr. Derringham!” she thought, “it isn’t fair! How can he hold out against her when he is so weak—what ought I to do? If I only knew what is my loyal course!”
Arabella was perfectly aware how the reports of his rapid recovery had been circulated—and guessed the reason—and all her kind woman’s heart was touched as she watched him lying there in splints, as pitiful and helpless as a baby. To pretend that he was making a quick return to health was so very far from the truth. She, herself, saw little change for the better from day to day; indeed, his large, proud eyes seemed to grow more anxious and haggard as the time went on.
Mrs. Cricklander donned her most suitably ravishing tea-gown, one of subdued simplicity—and, like a beautiful summer flower, she swept into the invalid’s room when the lowered sun blinds made the light restful and the June roses filled the air with scent. It was the end of the month and glorious weather was over the land.