They discussed what should be done about Cheiron and the old ladies, and decided that when to apprise the former of their marriage must be left to John’s discretion; and as Halcyone would not be missed until the evening, they would simply send two telegrams from Bristol in the late afternoon, one to Miss La Sarthe and one to Priscilla, the former briefly to announce that Halcyone was quite safe and was writing, and the latter asking her old nurse not to let the old ladies feel worried, and promising a letter to her, also.
“Then,” John Derringham said, “you will be my wife by that time, sweetheart, and you will tell your aunts the truth, ask them to keep our secret, and say that you will return to them often, so that they shall not be lonely. We will write it between us, darling, and I do not think they will give us away.”
“Never,” returned Halcyone, while she looked rather wistfully towards the house. “They are too proud.”
He dropped her hand for an instant; the unconscious inference of this speech made him wince. She understood, then, that she was going to do something which her old kinswomen would think was a hurt to their pride, and so would be silent over it in consequence. And yet she did not hesitate. She must indeed love him very much.
A tremendous wave of emotion surged through him, and he looked at her with reverence and worship. And for one second his own part of utter selfishness flashed into his understanding, so that he asked, with almost an anxious note in his deep, assured voice:
“You are not afraid, sweetheart, to come away—for all the rest of your life—alone with me?”
And often in the after days of anguish there would come back to him the memory of her eyes, to tear his heart with agony in the night-watches—her pure, true eyes, with all her fresh, untarnished soul looking out of them into his as they glistened with love and faith.
“Afraid?” she said. “How should I be afraid—since you are my lord and I am your love? Do we not belong to one another?”
“Oh, my dear,” he said, as he folded her to his heart in wild, worshiping passion, “God keep you always safe, here in my arms.”
And if she had known it, for the first time in his life there were tears in John Derringham’s proud eyes. For he knew now he had found her—the one woman with a soul.
Then they parted, when every smallest detail was settled, for she had promised to help Miss Roberta with a new design for her embroidery, and he had promised to join Mrs. Cricklander’s party for an early lunch. They intended to make an excursion to see the ruins of Graseworth Tower in the afternoon.
“And indeed we can bear the separation now, my darling,” he said, “because we shall both know that we must go through only four more days before we are together—for always!”
But even so it seemed as if they could not tear themselves apart, and when he did let her go he strode after her again and pleaded for one more kiss.