He had promised in the last letter that he would go down to Wendover again for Whitsuntide, and this time he firmly determined nothing should keep him from his obvious and delectable fate.
Mrs. Cricklander had no haunting fears now. She could discover no reason for John Derringham’s change towards her. Arabella had been mute and had put it down to the stress of his life. This tension with the foreign State, it leaked out, had been known to the Ministers for a week before it had been made public—that, of course, was the cause of his preoccupation, and she would simply order some especially irresistible garments in Paris, and bide her time.
He wrote the most charming letters, though they were hardly long enough to be called anything but notes; but there was always the insinuation in them that she was the one person in the world who understood him, and they were expressed with his usual cultivated taste.
It was sheer force of will that kept John Derringham from ever thinking of Halcyone. He resolutely crushed the thought of her every time it presented itself, and systematically turned to his work and plunged into it, if even a mental vision of her came to his mind’s eye.
He felt quite calm and safe when, two days before he was expected at Wendover, the idea came to him to propose himself to the Professor, so as not to have to go and see him and endure his cynical reflections after he should be engaged to his hostess.
Mr. Carlyon had wired back, “Come if you like,” and on this evening in early June John Derringham arrived at the orchard house.
Cheiron made no allusion to the matter that had caused them to part with some breezy words upon his old pupil’s side. Mrs. Cricklander or Wendover might not have existed; their talk was upon philosophy and politics, and contained not the shadow of a woman—even Halcyone was not mentioned at all.
Whitsuntide fell late that year, at the end of the first week in June, and the spring having been exceptionally mild, the foliage was all in full beauty of the freshest green.
It was astonishingly hot, and every divine scent of the night came to John Derringham as he went out into the garden before going to bed. A young setting half-moon still hung in the sky, and there were stars. One of those nights when all the mystery of life seems to be revealing itself in the one word—Love. The nightingale throbbed out its note in the copse amidst a perfect stillness, and the ground was soft without a drop of dew.
John Derringham, hatless, and with his hands plunged in the pockets of his dinner coat, wandered down the garden towards the apple tree, picking an early red rosebud as he passed a bush—its scent intoxicated him a little. Then he went to the gate, and, opening it, he strolled into the park. Here was a vaster and more perfect view. It was all clothed in the unknown of the half dark, and yet he could distinguish