Cecilia Cricklander reddened and thrilled, too. Here, at all events, was warmth. But she was not won yet. So she looked down, as if too full of emotion to speak. She must gain time to consider what this would mean, and, if worth while, how to lay her plans.
Should the scheme contain certain elevation for herself and certain humiliation for John Derringham, then there was something worthy of consideration in it, for undoubtedly Percy Hanbury-Green suited her the better of the two, as far as just the men themselves were concerned. She knew she would get desperately tired of having to live up to John Derringham’s standard, and a divorce in England would not be so easily obtained or so free from scandal, as her original one in America had been. But she must think well, and weigh the matter before plunging in.
Mr. Hanbury-Green saw her hesitation and instantly applied another forceful note. He dwelt upon the political situation and grew eloquent and magnetic, as when he was on the platform—for was he not playing for stakes which, for the moment, he valued even more than some thousands of votes?
It was no wonder Cecilia Cricklander’s imagination grew inflamed. He let her see that as his wife she would, for seven years or more, ride on the crest of the wave of an ever-rising tide to undreamed-of heights of excitement and intrigue. “With you at my side, darling,” Mr. Green said passionately, “I could be stimulated into being Dictator myself. The days of kings and constitutions are over. The people want a strong despotic leader who has first brought about their downfall. And they will get him—in ME!”
This clinched the matter, and Cecilia, seeing visions of herself as Madame Tallien, allowed herself to be drawn into his arms!
* * * * *
“Do you know, my beauty,” the triumphant lover said as they floated back to pick up Arabella upon the last steps, rather late in the afternoon, “I had meant to get you somehow to-day. If you had refused to listen, I intended to take you to the Lido and keep you there all night—the gondolier and the people there are bribed—then you would have had no choice but to marry me. Oh, you cannot balk me!”
And all Cecilia Cricklander replied was, with a girlish giggle of pleasure:
“Oh, Percy, dear!”
In the innermost recesses of their hearts there are a number of cold women who adore a bold buccaneer!
She had made one stipulation with him before they landed, and this was one which in the future—little as she knew it then—would rob her of all her triumph over John Derringham, and plant an everlasting and bitter sting in her breast.
She insisted that, as she did not wish to create a nine days’ wonder, no mention of his engagement to herself should be made public by Mr. Hanbury-Green for at least a month after people were aware that she had closed hers with John Derringham. All should be done with decency and in order, so as not to militate in any way against her future position as queen of the winning side.