“I shouldn’t know how to refuse, and I don’t know as I should have any right to.” Gregory shrank a little from her reyankeefied English, as well as from the apparent cynicism of her speech; but he shrank in silence still. She startled him by asking with a kindness that was almost tenderness, “Mr. Gregory, how do you think anything has changed?”
“You know how it was when you went away from Florence. Do you think differently now? I don’t. I don’t think I ought to do something for you, and pretend that I was doing it for religion. I don’t believe the way you do; and I know I neva shall. Do you want me in spite of my saying that I can neva help you in your work because I believe in it?”
“But if you believe in me—”
She shook her bead compassionately. “You know we ahgued that out before. We are just whe’e we were. I am sorry. Nobody had any right to tell you to come he’e. But I am glad you came—” She saw the hope that lighted up his face, but she went on unrelentingly—“I think we had betta be free.”
“Yes, from each other. I don’t know how you have felt, but I have not felt free. It has seemed to me that I promised you something. If I did, I want to take my promise back and be free.”
Her frankness appealed to his own. “You are free. I never held you bound to me in my fondest hopes. You have always done right.”
“I have tried to. And I am not going to let you go away thinking that the reason I said is the only reason. It isn’t. I wish to be free because—there is some one else, now.” It was hard to tell him this, but she knew that she must not do less; and the train that carried him from Venice that night bore a letter from her to Hinkle.
Clementina told Miss Milray what had happened, but with Mrs. Milray the girl left the sudden departure of Gregory to account for itself.
They all went a week later, and Mrs. Milray having now done her whole duty to Clementina had the easiest mind concerning her. Miss Milray felt that she was leaving her to greater trials than ever with Mrs. Lander; but since there was nothing else, she submitted, as people always do with the trials of others, and when she was once away she began to forget her.
By this time, however, it was really better for her. With no one to suspect of tampering with her allegiance, Mrs. Lander returned to her former fondness for the girl, and they were more peaceful if not happier together again. They had long talks, such as they used to have, and in the first of these Clementina told her how and why she had written to Mr. Hinkle. Mrs. Lander said that it suited her exactly.
“There ha’n’t but just two men in Europe behaved like gentlemen to me, and one is Mr. Hinkle, and the other is that lo’d; and between the two I ratha you’d have Mr. Hinkle; I don’t know as I believe much in American guls marryin’ lo’ds, the best of ’em.”