But John Derringham limped off to the bows of the ship, quivering with pain. So Halcyone had spoken of his engagement and said he was “clever and great.” What could it all mean? Did he no longer interest her then—even at that period? This stung him deeply. There was no light anywhere. When once he had grasped the full significance of his own conduct he was much too fine an intelligence to deceive himself, or persuade himself to see any other aspect but the hopeless one, that the entire chain of events was the result of his own action. But surely there must be some way out? If he wrote straight to Cecilia and told her the truth? And then he almost laughed bitterly as he realized the futility of this plan. What would the truth matter to Mrs. Cricklander? She could very well retort that he had known all this truth from the beginning, and had been willing to marry her while his financial position made it an advantage to himself, but was now recalcitrant only because fortune had otherwise poured gold into his lap.
No, there was no hope. He must go through with it.
So he crushed down his emotions and forced himself
to return to Miss
Lutworth and talk brightly to her until they landed.
And when they parted at the Gare du Nord, Cora was left with the impression that, whatever might be the undercurrent, John Derringham was strong enough to face his fate, and not give anyone the satisfaction of knowing whether in it he found pleasure or pain.
When he arrived about ten days later at the hotel in Florence, where Mrs. Cricklander was staying, waiting for him to accompany her on to Venice, he found her in a very bad temper. She felt that she had not been treated with that deference and respect which was her due, to say nothing of the ardor that a lover ought to have shown by hastening to her side. Why had he motored, spending ten days on a journey that he could have accomplished in two? And he made no excuses, and seemed quite unimpressed by her mood one way or another. He was so changed, too! Gaunt and haggard—he had certainly lost every one of his good looks, except his distinction—that seemed more marked than ever. His arrogant air that she had once admired so much now only caused her to feel a great irritation. He had made the excuse of the waiter not having quite closed the door, apparently, for only kissing her hand by way of greeting, and then he said just the right thing about her beauty and his pleasure in seeing her, and sat down by her side upon the sofa in far too collected a manner for a lover to have shown after these weeks of separation. Mrs. Cricklander grew very angry indeed. Cold and capricious behavior should only be shown upon a woman’s side, she felt!
“Your Government made a colossal mess of things before the session was over, did they not?” she said by way of something to start upon. “Mr. Hanbury-Green tells me you will have to face a hostile vote when you reassemble, and that the whole thing is a played-out game. How long would the Radicals last if they do come in?—and it looks like a certainty that they will.”