“No; he was here the whole of May.”
“Mr. Gregory?” Clementina’s face flushed and drooped Still lower. “I meant Mr. Hinkle. But if you think I oughtn’t—”
“I don’t think anything; I’m so glad! I supposed from what you said about the world, that it must be—But if it isn’t, all the better. If it’s Mr. Hinkle that you can have—”
“I’m not sure I can. I should like to tell you just how it is, and then you will know.” It needed fewer words for this than she expected, and then Clementina took a letter from her pocket, and gave it to Miss Milray. “He wrote it on the train, going away, and it’s not very plain; but I guess you can make it out.”
Miss Milray received the penciled leaves, which seemed to be pages torn out of a note-book. They were dated the day Hinkle left Venice, and the envelope bore the postmark of Verona. They were not addressed, but began abruptly: “I believe I have made a mistake; I ought not to have given you up till I knew something that no one but you can tell me. You are not bound to any body unless you wish to be so. That is what I see now, and I will not give you up if I can help it. Even if you had made a promise, and then changed your mind, you would not be bound in such a thing as this. I say this, and I know you will not believe I say it because I want you. I do want you, but I would not urge you to break your faith. I only ask you to realize that if you kept your word when your heart had gone out of it, you would be breaking your faith; and if you broke your word you would be keeping your faith. But if your heart is still in your word, I have no more to say. Nobody knows but you. I would get out and take the first train back to Venice if it were not for two things. I know it would be hard on me; and I am afraid it might be hard on you. But if you will write me a line at Milan, when you get this, or if you will write to me at London before July; or at New York at any time—for I expect to wait as long as I live—”
The letter ended here in the local addresses which the writer gave.
Miss Milray handed the leaves back to Clementina, who put them into her pocket, and apparently waited for her questions.
“And have you written?”
“No,” said the girl, slowly and thoughtfully, “I haven’t. I wanted to, at fust; and then, I thought that if he truly meant what he said he would be willing to wait.”
“And why did you want to wait?”
Clementina replied with a question of her own. “Miss Milray, what do you think about Mr. Gregory?”
“Oh, you mustn’t ask me that, my dear! I was afraid I had told you too plainly, the last time.”
“I don’t mean about his letting me think he didn’t ca’e for me, so long. But don’t you think he wants to do what is right! Mr. Gregory, I mean.”
“Well, if you put me on my honor, I’m afraid I do.”
“You see,” Clementina resumed. “He was the fust one, and I did ca’e for him a great deal; and I might have gone on caring for him, if—When I found out that I didn’t care any longer, or so much, it seemed to me as if it must be wrong. Do you think it was?”