Three days passed before Henry was able to visit Agnes again. In that time, the little cloud between them had entirely passed away. Agnes received him with even more than her customary kindness. She was in better spirits than usual. Her letter to Mrs. Stephen Westwick had been answered by return of post; and her proposal had been joyfully accepted, with one modification. She was to visit the Westwicks for a month—and, if she really liked teaching the children, she was then to be governess, aunt, and cousin, all in one— and was only to go away in an event which her friends in Ireland persisted in contemplating, the event of her marriage.
‘You see I was right,’ she said to Henry.
He was still incredulous. ‘Are you really going?’ he asked.
‘I am going next week.’
‘When shall I see you again?’
’You know you are always welcome at your brother’s house. You can see me when you like.’ She held out her hand. ’Pardon me for leaving you—I am beginning to pack up already.’
Henry tried to kiss her at parting. She drew back directly.
‘Why not? I am your cousin,’ he said.
‘I don’t like it,’ she answered.
Henry looked at her, and submitted. Her refusal to grant him his privilege as a cousin was a good sign—it was indirectly an act of encouragement to him in the character of her lover.
On the first day in the new week, Agnes left London on her way to Ireland. As the event proved, this was not destined to be the end of her journey. The way to Ireland was only the first stage on a roundabout road— the road that led to the palace at Venice.
The third part
In the spring of the year 1861, Agnes was established at the country-seat of her two friends—now promoted (on the death of the first lord, without offspring) to be the new Lord and Lady Montbarry. The old nurse was not separated from her mistress. A place, suited to her time of life, had been found for her in the pleasant Irish household. She was perfectly happy in her new sphere; and she spent her first half-year’s dividend from the Venice Hotel Company, with characteristic prodigality, in presents for the children.
Early in the year, also, the Directors of the life insurance offices submitted to circumstances, and paid the ten thousand pounds. Immediately afterwards, the widow of the first Lord Montbarry (otherwise, the dowager Lady Montbarry) left England, with Baron Rivar, for the United States. The Baron’s object was announced, in the scientific columns of the newspapers, to be investigation into the present state of experimental chemistry in the great American republic. His sister informed inquiring friends that she accompanied him, in the hope of finding consolation in change of scene after the bereavement that had fallen on her. Hearing this news from Henry Westwick (then paying a visit at his brother’s house), Agnes was conscious of a certain sense of relief. ‘With the Atlantic between us,’ she said, ‘surely I have done with that terrible woman now!’