At the Marina, they had but to step from the carriage to the boat. Elgar’s luggage was thrown on board, and the men pushed off from the quay.
Bitterly cold, but what a glorious sunrise! Against the flushed sky, those limestone heights of Capri caught the golden radiance and shone wondrously. The green water, gently swelling but unbroken, was like some rarer element, too limpid for this world’s shores. With laughter and merry talk between themselves, the boatmen hoisted their sail.
And the gods sent a fair breeze from the west, and it smote upon the sail, and the prow cleft its track of foam, and on they sped over the back of the barren sea.
It was a case of between two stools, and Clifford Marsh did not like the bump. From that dinner with Elgar he came home hilariously dismayed; when his hilarity had evaporated with the wine that was its cause, dismay possessed him wholly. Miss Doran was not for him, and in the meantime he had offended Madeline beyond forgiveness. With what countenance could he now turn to her again? Her mother would welcome his surrender—and it was drawing on towards the day when submission even to his stepfather could no longer be postponed—but he suspected that Madeline’s resolve to have done with him was strengthened by resentment of her mother’s importunities. To be sure, it was some sort of consolation to know that if indeed he went his way for good, bitterness and regrets would be the result to the Denyer family, who had no great facility in making alliances of this kind; in a few years time, Madeline would be wishing that she had not let her pride interfere with a chance of marriage. But, on the other hand, there was the awkward certainty that he too would lament making a fool of himself. He by no means liked the thought of relinquishing Madeline; he had not done so, even when heating his brain with contemplation of Cecily Doran. In what manner could he bring about between her and himself a drama which might result in tears and mutual pardon?
But whilst he pondered this, fate was at work on behalf. On the day which saw the departure of the Bradshaws, there landed at Naples, from Alexandria, a certain lean, wiry man, with shoulders that stooped slightly, with grizzled head and parchment visage; a man who glanced about him in a keen, anxious way, and had other nervous habits. Having passed the custom-house, he hired a porter to take his luggage—two leather bags and a heavy chest, all much the worse for wear—to that same hotel at which Mallard was just now staying. There he refreshed himself, and, it being early in the afternoon, went forth again, as if on business; for decidedly he was no tourist. When he had occasion to speak, his Italian was fluent and to the point; he conducted himself as one to whom travel and intercourse with every variety of men were life-long habits.