“If so, I only treated you as you thought to treat me.”
“That you can attribute such baseness to me proves how incapable you are of distinguishing between truth and falsehood. How wretchedly I have been deceived in you!”
From upbraiding, he fell to lamentation. His life was wrecked; he had lost his ideals; and all through her unworthiness. Then, as Madeline was still unrelenting, he began to humble himself. He confessed his levity; he had not considered the risk he ran of losing her respect; all he had done was in pique at her treatment of him. And in the end he implored her forgiveness, besought her to restore him to life by accepting his unqualified submission. To part from her on such terms as these meant despair; the consequences would be tragic. And when he could go no further in amorous supplication, when she felt that her injured pride had exacted the uttermost from his penitence, Madeline at length relented.
“Still,” she said, after his outburst of gratitude, “don’t think that I ask you to become a man of business. You shall never charge me with that. It is your nature to reproach other people when anything goes wrong with you; I know you only too well. You must decide for yourself; I will take no responsibility.”
Yes, he accepted that; it was purely his own choice. Rather than lose her, he would toil at any most ignoble pursuit, amply repaid by the hope she granted him.
They had walked some distance, and were out of sight of the Mergellina, on the ascending road of Posillipo, all the moonlit glory of the bay before them.
“It will be long before we see it again,” said Madeline, sadly.
“We will spend our honeymoon here,” was Clifford’s hopeful reply.
On the thirteenth day after the flight from Capri, Edward Spence, leaving the villa for his afternoon walk, encountered the postman and received from him three letters. One was addressed to Ross Mallard, Esq., care of Edward Spence, Esq.; another, to Mrs. Spence; the third, to Mrs. Baske. As he reascended the stairs, somewhat more quickly than his wont, Spence gave narrow attention to the handwriting on the envelopes. He found Eleanor where he had left her a few minutes before, at the piano, busy with a difficult passage of Brahms. She looked round in surprise, and on seeing the letters started up eagerly.
“Do you know Elgar’s hand?” Spence asked. “These two from London are his, I should imagine. This for you is from Mrs. Lessingham, isn’t it?”
“Yes; I think this is the news, at last,” said Eleanor, inspecting Mrs. Baske’s letter, not without feminine emotion. “I’ll take it to her. Shall you go over with the other?”
“He’ll he here after dinner; the likelihood is that I shouldn’t find him.”
“Occasionally—very occasionally—you lack tact, my husband. He would hardly care to open this and read it in our presence.”