The next morning, while he rubbed his bruises in a hot bath, Brendon determined upon a course of action. He proposed to tell Jenny and her husband exactly what had happened to him, merely concealing the end of the story.
He breakfasted, lighted his pipe and limped over to Villa Pianezzo. He was not in reality very lame, but accentuated the stiffness. Only Assunta appeared, though Brendon’s eyes had marked Doria and Jenny together in the neighbourhood of the silkworm house as he entered the garden. He asked for Giuseppe and, having left Brendon in the sitting-room of the villa, Assunta departed. Almost immediately afterward Jenny greeted him with evident pleasure but reproved him.
“We waited an hour for supper,” she said, “then Giuseppe would wait no longer. I was beginning to get frightened and I have been frightened all night. I am thankful to see you, for I feared something serious might have happened.”
“Something serious did happen. I’ve got a strange story to tell. Is your husband within reach? He must hear it, too, I think. He may be in some danger as well as others.”
She expressed impatience and shook her head.
“Can’t you believe me? But of course you can’t. Why should you? Doria in danger! However, if you want him, you don’t want me, Mark.”
It was the first time that she had thus addressed him and his heart throbbed; but the temptation to confide in her lasted not a moment.
“On the contrary I want you both,” he answered. “I attach very great weight to the hints you have given me—not only for my sake but for your own. The end is not yet as far as you’re concerned, Jenny, for your welfare is more to me than anything else in the world—you know it. Trust me to prove that presently. But other things come first. I must do what I am here to do, before I am free to do what I long to do.”
“I trust you—and only you,” she said. “In all this bewilderment and misery, you are now the only steadfast rock to which I can cling. Don’t desert me, that’s all that I ask.”
“Never! All that’s best in me shall be devoted to you, thankfully and proudly—now that you have wished it. Trust me, I say again. Call your husband. I want to tell you both what happened to me yesterday.”
Again she hesitated and gazed intently upon him.
“Are you sure that you are wise? Would Mr. Ganns like you to tell Doria anything?”
“You will judge better when you have heard me.”
Again he longed to confide in her and show her that he understood the truth; but two considerations shut his mouth: the thought of Peter Ganns and the reflection that the more Jenny knew, the greater might be her own peril. This last conviction made him conclude their conference.
“Call him. We must not let him think that we have anything of a private nature to say to each other. It is vital that he should not imagine such a thing.”