Miss Milray tried to emulate her calm in asking, “And shall you?”
“I don’t know. I told him I would see; he only asked me last night. It would be kind of natural. He was the fust. You may think it is strange—”
Miss Milray, in the superstition of her old-maidenhood concerning love, really thought it cold-blooded and shocking; but she said, “Oh, no.”
Clementina resumed: “And he says that if it was right for me to stop caring for him when I did, it is right now for me to ca’e for him again, where the’e’s no one to be hu’t by it. Do you think it is?”
“Yes; why not?” Miss Milray was forced to the admission against what she believed the finer feelings ’of her nature.
Clementina sighed, “I suppose he’s right. I always thought he was good. Women don’t seem to belong very much to themselves in this wo’ld, do they?”
“No, they seem to belong to the men, either because they want the men, or the men want them; it comes to the same thing. I suppose you don’t wish me to advise you, my dear?”
“No. I presume it’s something I’ve got to think out for myself.”
“But I think he’s good, too. I ought to say that much, for I didn’t always stand his friend with you. If Mr. Gregory has any fault it’s being too scrupulous.”
“You mean, about that old trouble—our not believing just the same?” Miss Milray meant something much more temperamental than that, but she allowed Clementina to limit her meaning, and Clementina went on. “He’s changed all round now. He thinks it’s all in the life. He says that in China they couldn’t understand what he believed, but they could what he lived. And he knows I neva could be very religious.”
It was in Miss Milray’s heart to protest, “Clementina, I think you are one of the most religious persons I ever knew,” but she forebore, because the praise seemed to her an invasion of Clementina’s dignity. She merely said, “Well, I am glad he is one of those who grow more liberal as they grow older. That is a good sign for your happiness. But I dare say it’s more of his happiness you think.”
“Oh, I should like to be happy, too. There would be no sense in it if I wasn’t.”
“No, certainly not.”
“Miss Milray,” said Clementina, with a kind of abruptness, “do you eva hear anything from Dr. Welwright?”
“No! Why?” Miss Milray fastened her gaze vividly upon her.
“Oh, nothing. He wanted me to promise him, there in Venice, too.”
“I didn’t know it.”
“Yes. But—I couldn’t, then. And now—he’s written to me. He wants me to let him come ova, and see me.”
“And—and will you?” asked Miss Milray, rather breathlessly.
“I don’t know. I don’t know as I’d ought. I should like to see him, so as to be puffectly su’a. But if I let him come, and then didn’t—It wouldn’t be right! I always felt as if I’d ought to have seen then that he ca’ed for me, and stopped him; but I didn’t. No, I didn’t,” she repeated, nervously. “I respected him, and I liked him; but I neva”—She stopped, and then she asked, “What do you think I’d ought to do, Miss Milray?”