“No”—She had expected it though, he could see that.
“But whenever it comes, I’ll bring it right round to you. Now it’s all going to be straight, don’t you be afraid, and you’re going home the quickest way you can get there. I’ve been looking up the sailings, and this Genoa boat will get you to New York about as soon as any could from Liverpool. Besides there’s always a chance of missing connections and losing time between here and England. I should stick to the Genoa boat.”
“Oh I shall,” said Clementina, far less fidgetted than he. She was, in fact, resting securely again in the faith which had never really deserted her, and had only seemed for a little time to waver from her when her hope went. Now that she had telegraphed, her heart was at peace, and she even laughed as she answered the anxious vice-consul.
The next morning Clementina watched for the vice-consul from her balcony. She knew he would not send; she knew he would come; but it, was nearly noon before she saw him coming. They caught sight of each other almost at the same moment, and he stood up in his boat, and waved something white in his hand, which must be a dispatch for her.
It acknowledged her telegram and reported George still improving; his father would meet her steamer in New York. It was very reassuring, it was every thing hopeful; but when she had read it she gave it to the vice-consul for encouragement.
“It’s all right, Miss Claxon,” he said, stoutly. “Don’t you be troubled about Mr. Hinkle’s not coming to meet you himself. He can’t keep too quiet for a while yet.”
“Oh, yes,” said Clementina, patiently.
“If you really want somebody to worry about, you can help Mr. Orson to worry about himself!” the vice-consul went on, with the grimness he had formerly used in speaking of Mrs. Lander. “He’s sick, or he thinks he’s going to be. He sent round for me this morning, and I found him in bed. You may have to go home alone. But I guess he’s more scared than hurt.”
Her heart sank, and then rose in revolt against the mere idea of delay. “I wonder if I ought to go and see him,” she said.
“Well, it would be a kindness,” returned the vice-consul, with a promptness that unmasked the apprehension he felt for the sick man.
He did not offer to go with her, and she took Maddalena. She found the minister seated in his chair beside his bed. A three days’ beard heightened the gauntness of his face; he did not move when his padrona announced her.
“I am not any better,” he answered when she said that she was glad to see him up. “I am merely resting; the bed is hard. I regret to say,” he added, with a sort of formal impersonality, “that I shall be unable to accompany you home, Miss Claxon. That is, if you still think of taking the steamer this week.”
Her whole being had set homeward in a tide that already seemed to drift the vessel from its moorings. “What—what do you mean?” she gasped.