“Oh, I should get along,” she returned, Light-heartedly, but upon questioning herself whether she should turn to Miss Milray for help, or appeal to the vice-consul himself, she was daunted a little, and she added, “But just as you say, Mr. Bennam.”
“I say, keep what fairly belongs to you. It’s only two or three hundred dollars at the outside,” he explained to Mr. Orson’s hungry eyes; but perhaps the sum did not affect the country minister’s imagination as trifling; his yearly salary must sometimes have been little more.
The whole interview left the vice-consul out of humor with both parties to the affair; and as to Clementina, between the ideals of a perfect little saint, and a perfect little simpleton he remained for the present unable to class her.
Clementina and the Vice-Consul afterwards agreed that Mrs. Lander must have sent the will to Mr. Orson in one of those moments of suspicion when she distrusted everyone about her, or in that trouble concerning her husband’s kindred which had grown upon her more and more, as a means of assuring them that they were provided for.
“But even then,” the vice-consul concluded, “I don’t see why she wanted this man to come out here. The only explanation is that she was a little off her base towards the last. That’s the charitable supposition.”
“I don’t think she was herself, some of the time,” Clementina assented in acceptance of the kindly construction.
The vice-consul modified his good will toward Mrs. Lander’s memory so far as to say, “Well, if she’d been somebody else most of the time, it would have been an improvement.”
The talk turned upon Mr. Orson, and what he would probably do. The vice-consul had found him a cheap lodging, at his request, and he seemed to have settled down at Venice either without the will or without the power to go home, but the vice-consul did not know where he ate, or what he did with himself except at the times when he came for letters. Once or twice when he looked him up he found him writing, and then the minister explained that he had promised to “correspond” for an organ of his sect in the Northwest; but he owned that there was no money in it. He was otherwise reticent and even furtive in his manner. He did not seem to go much about the city, but kept to his own room; and if he was writing of Venice it must have been chiefly from his acquaintance with the little court into which his windows looked. He affected the vice-consul as forlorn and helpless, and he pitied him and rather liked him as a fellow-victim of Mrs. Lander.
One morning Mr. Orson came to see Clementina, and after a brief passage of opinion upon the weather, he fell into an embarrassed silence from which he pulled himself at last with a visible effort. “I hardly know how to lay before you what I have to say, Miss Claxon,” he began, “and I must ask you to put the best construction upon it. I have never been reduced to a similar distress before. You would naturally think that I would turn to the vice-consul, on such an occasion; but I feel, through our relation to the—to Mrs. Lander—ah—somewhat more at home with you.”