Arabella could ask her mother down and keep house and see that he had everything in the world that he wanted—and there were the devoted nurses. And, in short, her doctor had said she must have her usual cure, and that was the end of the matter!
She had only made him the most fleeting visits during the week. He had really been ill after the fever caused by the champagne. And she had been exquisitely gentle and not too demonstrative. She had calculated the possibility of his backing out under the plea of his health, so she determined not to give him a chance to have the slightest excuse by overtiring him.
No one could have better played the part of devoted, understanding friend who by excess of love had been betrayed into one lapse of passionate outburst, and now wished only to soothe and comfort.
“She is a good sort,” John Derringham thought, after her first visit. “She will let me down easy in any case,” and the ceasing of his anxiety about his financial position comforted him greatly.
The next time she came and sat by his bed, a vision of fresh summer laces and chiffons, he determined to make the position clear to her.
She always bent and kissed him with airy grace, then sat down at a discreet distance. She felt he was not overanxious to caress her, and preferred that the rendering of this impossible should come from her side. Indeed, unless kisses were necessary to gain an end, she did not care for them herself—stupid, contemptible things, she thought them!
John Derringham would have touched the hearts of most women as he lay there, but Cecilia Cricklander had not this tiresome appendage, only the business brain and unemotional sensibilities of her grandfather the pork butcher. She did realize that her fiance, even there with the black silk handkerchief wound round his head and his face and hands deadly pale and fragile-looking, was still a most arrogant and distinguished-looking creature, and that his eyes, with their pathetic shadows dimming the proud glance in them, were wonderfully attractive. But she was not touched especially by his weakness. She disliked suffering and never wanted to be made aware of it.
John Derringham went straight into the subject which was uppermost in his thoughts. He asked her to listen to him patiently, and stated his exact financial situation. She must then judge if she found it worth while to marry him; he would not deceive her about one fraction of it.
She laughed lightly when he had ended—and there was something which galled him in her mirth.
“It is all a ridiculous nothing,” she said. “Why, I can pay off the whole thing with only the surplus I invest every year from my income! Your property is quite good security—if I want any. We shall probably have to do it in a business-like way; your house will be mine, of course, but I will make you very comfortable as my guest!” and she smiled with suitable playfulness. “Let the lawyers talk over these things, not you and me—you may be sure mine will look after me!”