At the last moment she had a question which she referred to the vice consul. “Should you tell him?” she asked.
“Tell who what?” he retorted.
“Mr. Osson-that I wouldn’t have stayed for him.”
“Do you think it would make you feel any better?” asked the consul, upon reflection.
“I believe he ought to know.”
“Well, then, I guess I should do it.”
The time did not come for her confession till they had nearly reached the end of their voyage. It followed upon something like a confession from the minister himself, which he made the day he struggled on deck with her help, after spending a week in his berth.
“Here is something,” he said, “which appears to be for you, Miss Claxon. I found it among some letters for Mrs. Lander which Mr. Bennam gave me after my arrival, and I only observed the address in looking over the papers in my valise this morning.” He handed her a telegram. “I trust that it is nothing requiring immediate attention.”
Clementina read it at a glance. “No,” she answered, and for a while she could not say anything more; it was a cable message which Hinkle’s sister must have sent her after writing. No evil had come of its failure to reach her, and she recalled without bitterness the suffering which would have been spared her if she had got it before. It was when she thought of the suffering of her lover from the silence which must have made him doubt her, that she could not speak. As soon as she governed herself against her first resentment she said, with a little sigh, “It is all right, now, Mr. Osson,” and her stress upon the word seemed to trouble him with no misgiving. “Besides, if you’re to blame for not noticing, so is Mr. Bennam, and I don’t want to blame any one.” She hesitated a moment before she added: “I have got to tell you something, now, because I think you ought to know it. I am going home to be married, Mr. Osson, and this message is from the gentleman I am going to be married to. He has been very sick, and I don’t know yet as he’ll be able to meet me in New Yo’k; but his fatha will.”
Mr. Orson showed no interest in these facts beyond a silent attention to her words, which might have passed for an open indifference. At his time of life all such questions, which are of permanent importance to women, affect men hardly more than the angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage. Besides, as a minister he must have had a surfeit of all possible qualities in the love affairs of people intending matrimony. As a casuist he was more reasonably concerned in the next fact which Clementina laid before him.
“And the otha day, there in Venice when you we’e sick, and you seemed to think that I might put off stahting home till the next steamer, I don’t know but I let you believe I would.”
“I supposed that the delay of a week or two could make no material difference to you.”