But there was yet one more unpleasant aspect to face—that was the situation regarding Mrs. Cricklander. He had assuredly not committed himself or even acted very unfairly to her. She had been playing a game as he had been. He did not flatter himself that she really loved him—now that he knew what love meant—and her ambition could be gratified elsewhere; but there remained the fact that he was engaged to stay with her for Whitsuntide, and whether to do so, and plainly show her that he had meant nothing and only intended to be a friend, or whether to throw the visit over, and go to London, returning just to fetch Halcyone about Wednesday, he could not quite decide.
Which would be the best thing to do? It worried him—but not for long, because indecision was not, as a rule, one of his characteristics, and he soon made up his mind to the former course.
He would go to Wendover on Saturday, as was arranged, take pains to disabuse his hostess’s mind of any illusion upon the subject of his intentions, and, having run over to Bristol this afternoon to give notice to the registrar and procure the license, he would leave with the other guests on the Tuesday, after lunch, having sent his servant up to London in the morning to be out of the way.
Then he would sleep that night in Upminster, getting his servant to leave what luggage he required there—it was the junction for the main line to London, and so that would be easy. A motor could be hired, and in it, on the Wednesday, he would come to the oak avenue gate, as that was far at the other side of the park upon the western road; there he would arrange that Halcyone should be waiting for him with some small box, and they would go over to Bristol, be married, and then go on to a romantic spot he knew of in Wales, and there spend a week of bliss!
By the time he got thus far in his meditations he felt intoxicated again, and Mr. Carlyon, who was watching him as he sat there in his chair reading the Times opposite him, wondered what made him suddenly clasp his hands and draw in his breath and smile in that idiotic way while he gazed into space!
Then there would be the afterwards. Of course, that would be blissful, too. Oh! if he could only claim her before all the world how glorious it would be—but for the present that was hopeless, and at all events her life with him would not be more retired than the one of monotony which she led at La Sarthe Chase, and would have his tenderest love to brighten it. He would take a tiny house for her somewhere—one of those very old-fashioned ones shut in with a garden still left in Chelsea, near the Embankment—and there he would spend every moment of his spare time, and try to make up to her for her isolation. Well arranged, the world need not know of this—Halcyone would never be exigeante—or if it did develop a suspicion, ministers before his day had been known to have had—cheres amies.