“Ah, Nurse Brome, you have been so good to Mr. Derringham, you must be the first to wish us happiness and share our news. We are going to be married as soon as ever you get him well—so you must hasten that, like the clever woman you are!”
And she had laughed, a soft laugh of triumph, which even in his light-headed state had seemed to John Derringham as the mocking of some fiend.
Then she had left him quickly, while the footman carried the table from the room—and after that he remembered nothing more, he had fallen into a feverish sleep. But the next morning, when he awoke, he knew captivity had indeed tumbled upon him, and that he was chained hand and foot.
And all the day his temperature went up again, and he was not allowed to see even Arabella of the kind heart, who would have come and condoled with him, and even wept over him if she had dared, so moved did the good creature feel at his fate.
It was only upon the third day, when telegrams of congratulation began to pour in upon him by the dozen, that he knew anything about the announcement that had appeared in the Morning Post.
Yes, he was caught and chained at last, and for the next week had moods of gnashing his teeth, and feeling the most degraded of men, alternating with hours of trying to persuade himself that it was the best thing which could have happened to him.
Mrs. Cricklander, now that she had gained her end, wisely left him for a day or two in peace to the care of Arabella and the nurses, drawing the net closer each hour by her public parade of her position as his fiancee. She wrote the most exquisite and womanly letter to thank her many friends for their kind congratulations—and lamented, now that the truth being known would not matter, that John had had a slight relapse, and was not quite so well.
But, of course, she was taking every care of him, and so he soon would be his old exuberant self!
Thus the period of John Derringham’s purgatory began.
Grieving is such a satisfactory and dramatic thing when you can fling yourself down upon the ground and cry aloud and tear your hair. But if some great blow must be borne without a sign, then indeed it wrings the heart and saps the forces of life.
When Halcyone got to her room, the housemaids were there beginning to make her bed—so it was no refuge for her—and she was obliged to go down again. The big drawing-rooms would be untenanted at this moment, so she turned the handle of the door and crept in there. The modern brightly gilt Louis XVI furniture glared at her, but she sank into a big chair thankful to find any support.
What was this which had fallen upon her?—The winter, indeed—or, more than that, not only the winter but the end of life, like the flash of lightning which had struck the tree in the park the night before that day which was to have seen her wedding?