“But surely a girl has some rights of her own,” he said, and then I was silent and a little ashamed, having a sense of female helplessness which I had never felt before and could find no words for.
“I’ll write to your father,” he said, and just at that moment the bell rang, and my father came into the compartment, saying:
“Now then, young man, if you don’t want to be taken up to the North Pole instead of going down to the South one. . . .”
“That’s all right, sir. Don’t you trouble about me. I can take care of myself,” said Martin.
Something in his tone must have said more than his words to my father and the Bishop, for I saw that they looked at each other with surprise.
Then the bell rang again, the engine throbbed, and Martin said, “Good-bye! Good-bye!”
While the train moved out of the station he stood bareheaded on the platform with such a woebegone face that looking back at him my throat began to hurt me as it used to do when I was a child.
I was very sad that day as we travelled north. My adopted country had become dear to me during my ten years’ exile from home, and I thought I was seeing the last of my beautiful Italy, crowned with sunshine and decked with flowers.
But there was another cause of my sadness, and that was the thought of Martin’s uneasiness about my marriage the feeling that if he had anything to say to my father he ought to have said it then.
And there was yet another cause of which I was quite unconscious—that like every other girl before love dawns on her, half of my nature was still asleep, the half that makes life lovely and the world dear.
To think that Martin Conrad was the one person who could have wakened my sleeping heart! That a word, a look, a smile from him that day could have changed the whole current of my life, and that. . . .
But no, I will not reproach him. Have I not known since the day on St. Mary’s Rock that above all else he is a born gentleman?
And yet. . . . And yet. . . .
And yet I was a fool, or in spite of everything I should have spoken to Daniel O’Neill before he left Rome. I should have said to him:
“Do you know that the man to whom you are going to marry your daughter is a profligate and a reprobate? If you do know this, are you deliberately selling her, body and soul, to gratify your lust of rank and power and all the rest of your rotten aspirations?”
That is what I ought to have done, but didn’t do. I was afraid of being thought to have personal motives—of interfering where I wasn’t wanted, of butting in when I had no right.
Yet I felt I had a right, and I had half a mind to throw up everything and go back to Ellan. But the expedition was the big chance I had been looking forward to and I could not give it up.