“I never saw them,” said Hinkle. He paused, before he added, “Well, it would seem rather crowded after they get here, I suppose,” and he laughed, while Clementina said nothing.
Hinkle came every morning now, to smoothe out the doubts and difficulties that had accumulated in Mrs. Lander’s mind over night, and incidentally to propose some pleasure for Clementina, who could feel that he was pitying her in her slavery to the sick woman’s whims, and yet somehow entreating her to bear them. He saw them together in what Mrs. Lander called her well days; but there were other days when he saw Clementina alone, and then she brought him word from Mrs. Lander, and reported his talk to her after he went away. On one of these she sent him a cheerfuller message than usual, and charged the girl to explain that she was ever so much better, but had not got up because she felt that every minute in bed was doing her good. Clementina carried back his regrets and congratulation, and then told Mrs. Lander that he had asked her to go out with him to see a church, which he was sorry Mrs. Lander could not see too. He professed to be very particular about his churches, for he said he had noticed that they neither of them had any great gift for sights, and he had it on his conscience to get the best for them. He told Clementina that the church he had for them now could not be better if it had been built expressly for them, instead of having been used as a place of worship for eight or ten generations of Venetians before they came. She gave his invitation to Mrs. Lander, who could not always be trusted with his jokes, and she received it in the best part.
“Well, you go!” she said. “Maddalena can look after me, I guess. He’s the only one of the fellas, except that lo’d, that I’d give a cent for.” She added, with a sudden lapse from her pleasure in Hinkle to her severity with Clementina, “But you want to be ca’eful what you’ doin’.”
“Yes!—About Mr. Hinkle. I a’n’t agoin’ to have you lead him on, and then say you didn’t know where he was goin’. I can’t keep runnin’ away everywhe’e, fo’ you, the way I done at Woodlake.”
Clementina’s heart gave a leap, whether joyful or woeful; but she answered indignantly, “How can you say such a thing to me, Mrs. Lander. I’m not leading him on!”
“I don’t know what you call it. You’re round with him in the gondoler, night and day, and when he’s he’e, you’a settin’ with him half the time on the balcony, and it’s talk, talk, the whole while.” Clementina took in the fact with silent recognition, and Mrs. Lander went on. “I ain’t sayin’ anything against it. He’s the only one I don’t believe is afta the money he thinks you’a goin’ to have; but if you don’t want him, you want to look what you’re about.”
The girl returned to Hinkle in the embarrassment which she was helpless to hide, and without the excuse which she could not invent for refusing to go with him. “Is Mrs. Lander worse—or anything?” he asked.