They told me privately that they are engaged, but do not intend to announce it yet, and I believe they are really suited to each other. I had thought at one time that Mr. Derringham might be equally a mate for her, because of his selfishness, but, after I grew to know him when he was ill, I saw that he was infinitely above her, and not really more selfish than other men—and, as you know, I have extended to him my pity and commiseration ever since. Your liking of him confirmed my good opinion. I am to stay on with M. E. as long as I will, because Mr. Hanbury-Green, she says, is not cultivated either, and I may be of use to them both, she thinks, in the future, although she has not imparted this to him. I do not believe I shall like having to render his speeches erudite, because my political convictions are all upon the other side. But something else may turn up, and it is a comfort to know things are settled for the present. Mr. Derringham looked so joyous as he came from her sitting-room, after his dismissal, that I am sure he will go off at once to that person I have often given you a hint about,—and his restoration to health may consequently be looked upon as a certainty. I fear the influences we shall have to live under now will not encourage that high tone which endeavoring to keep up with Mr. Derringham and his party entailed, and it may grow more than I can bear. The inference to be drawn from M. E.’s defection to the other side is not felicitous, and gives me cause for the most gloomy foreboding as to the future of the country, because she would never have done it if she had not received from Mr. Hanbury-Green absolute guarantees that with him she will occupy the highest position. Everything Conservative is vieux jeu now, she says, and she must go with the tide.
And from this the letter wandered on to personal matters.
Meanwhile John Derringham had received Mrs. Porrit’s answer and had ascertained the Professor’s probable address, and was joyously speeding his way on to Rome.
The Palace of the Caesars was lying in blazing heat when Halcyone and the Professor decided to spend the afternoon there. People had warned them not to get to Rome until October, but they were both lovers of the sun, and paid no heed. It would be particularly delightful to have the eternal city to themselves, and they had come straight down from San Gimignano, meaning to pick up their motor again at Perugia on their way back, as the roads to the south were so bad.
They had only arrived the evening before, and felt the Palatine hill should be their first pilgrimage. It was completely deserted in the heat and they wandered in peace. They had gone all through the dark rooms which overlook the Forum, and had reached the garden upon the top, with its cypress and cool shade. Here Halcyone sat down on a bench, looking over the wonderful scene. She wanted to re-read a letter from her Aunt Roberta which had arrived as they were starting out.