Ragged Lady, v2
William Dean Howells
Part 2 out of 4
The Russian was looking down over the parapet at the boiling river. He
lifted his head as if he had not heard the American, and stared at him a
moment before he spoke. It is said that the railway to Rome is broken at
"Well, I'm not going to Rome," said Hinkle, easily. "Are you?"
"I was to meet a friend there; but he wrote to me that be was starting to
Florence, and now"--
"He's resting on the way? Well, he'll get here about as quick as he
would in the ordinary course of travel. One good thing about Italy is,
you don't want to hurry; if you did, you'd get left."
Belsky stared at him in the stupefaction to which the American humor
commonly reduced him. "If he gets left on the Grossetto line, he can go
back and come up by Orvieto, no?"
"He can, if he isn't in a hurry," Hinkle assented.
"It's a good way, if you've got time to burn."
Belsky did not attempt to explore the American's meaning. "Do you know,"
he asked, "whether Mrs. Lander and her young friend are still in
"I guess they are."
"It was said they were going to Venice for the summer."
"That's what the doctor advised for the old lady. But they don't start
for a week or two yet."
"Are you going to Miss Milray's, Sunday night? Last of the season, I
Belsky seemed to recall himself from a distance.
"No--no," he said, and he moved away, forgetful of the ceremonious
salutation which he commonly used at meeting and parting. Hinkle looked
after him with the impression people have of a difference in the
appearance and behavior of some one whose appearance and behavior do not
particularly concern them.
The day that followed, Belsky haunted the hotel where Gregory was to
arrive with his pupil, and where the pupil's family were waiting for
them. That night, long after their belated train was due, they came; the
pupil was with his father and mother, and Gregory was alone, when Belsky
asked for him, the fourth or fifth time.
"You are not well," he said, as they shook bands. You are fevered!"
"I'm tired," said Gregory. "We've bad a bad time getting through."
"I come inconveniently! You have not dined, perhaps?"
"Yes, Yes. I've had dinner. Sit down. How have you been yourself?"
"Oh, always well." Belsky sat down, and the friends stared at each
other. "I have strange news for you."
"You. She is here."
Yes. The young girl of whom you told me. If I had not forbidden myself
by my loyalty to you--if I had not said to myself every moment in her
presence, 'No, it is for your friend alone that she is beautiful and
good!'--But you will have nothing to reproach me in that regard."
"What do you mean?" demanded Gregory.
"I mean that Miss Claxon is in Florence, with her protectress, the rich
Mrs. Lander. The most admired young lady in society, going everywhere,
and everywhere courted and welcomed; the favorite of the fashionable Miss
Milray. But why should this surprise you?"
"You said nothing about it in your letters. You"--
"I was not sure it was she; you never told me her name. When I had
divined the fact, I was so soon to see you, that I thought best to keep
it till we met."
Gregory tried to speak, but he let Belsky go on.
"If you think that the world has spoiled her, that she will be different
from what she was in her home among your mountains, let me reassure you.
In her you will find the miracle of a woman whom no flattery can turn the
head. I have watched her in your interest; I have tested her. She is
what you saw her last."
"Surely," asked Gregory, in an anguish for what he now dreaded, "you
haven't spoken to her of me?"
"Not by name, no. I could not have that indiscretion"--
"The name is nothing. Have you said that you knew me--Of course not!
But have you hinted at any knowledge--Because"--
"You will hear!" said Belsky; and he poured out upon Gregory the story of
what he had done. "She did not deny anything. She was greatly moved,
but she did not refuse to let me bid you hope"--
"Oh!" Gregory took his head between his hands. "You have spoiled my
"Spoiled" Belsky stopped aghast.
"I told you my story in a moment of despicable weakness--of impulsive
folly. But how could I dream that you would ever meet her? How could I
imagine that you would speak to her as you have done?" He groaned, and
began to creep giddily about the room in his misery. "Oh, oh, oh!
What shall I do?"
"But I do not understand!" Belsky began. "If I have committed an error"--
"Oh, an error that never could be put right in all eternity!"
"Then let me go to her--let me tell her"--
"Keep away from her!" shouted Gregory. "Do you hear? Never go near her
"Ah, I beg your pardon! I don't know what I'm doing-saying. What will
she think--what will she think of me!" He had ceased to speak to Belsky;
he collapsed into a chair, and hid his face in his arms stretched out on
the table before him.
Belsky watched him in the stupefaction which the artistic nature feels
when life proves sentient under its hand, and not the mere material of
situations and effects. He could not conceive the full measure of the
disaster he had wrought, the outrage of his own behavior had been lost to
him in his preoccupation with the romantic end to be accomplished. He
had meant to be the friend, the prophet, to these American lovers, whom
he was reconciling and interpreting to each other; but in some point he
must have misunderstood. Yet the error was not inexpiable; and in his
expiation he could put the seal to his devotion. He left the room, where
Gregory made no effort to keep him.
He walked down the street from the hotel to the Arno, and in a few
moments he stood on the bridge, where he had talked with that joker in
the morning, as they looked down together on the boiling river. He had a
strange wish that the joker might have been with him again, to learn that
there were some things which could not be joked away.
The night was blustering, and the wind that blew the ragged clouds across
the face of the moon, swooped in sudden gusts upon the bridge, and the
deluge rolling under it and hoarsely washing against its piers. Belsky
leaned over the parapet and looked down into the eddies and currents as
the fitful light revealed them. He had a fantastic pleasure in studying
them, and choosing the moment when he should leap the parapet and be lost
in them. The incident could not be used in any novel of his, and no one
else could do such perfect justice to the situation, but perhaps
afterwards, when the facts leading to his death should be known through
the remorse of the lovers whom he had sought to serve, some other artist-
nature could distil their subtlest meaning in a memoir delicate as the
aroma of a faded flower.
He was willing to make this sacrifice, too, and he stepped back a pace
from the parapet when the fitful blast caught his hat from his head, and
whirled it along the bridge. The whole current of his purpose changed,
and as if it had been impossible to drown himself in his bare head, he
set out in chase of his hat, which rolled and gamboled away, and escaped
from his clutch whenever he stooped for it, till a final whiff of wind
flung it up and tossed it over the bridge into the river, where he
helplessly watched it floating down the flood, till it was carried out of
Gregory did not sleep, and he did not find peace in the prayers he put up
for guidance. He tried to think of some one with whom he might take
counsel; but he knew no one in Florence except the parents of his pupil,
and they were impossible. He felt himself abandoned to the impulse which
he dreaded, in going to Clementina, and he went without hope, willing to
suffer whatever penalty she should visit upon him, after he had disavowed
Belsky's action, and claimed the responsibility for it.
He was prepared for her refusal to see him; he had imagined her wounded
and pathetic; he had fancied her insulted and indignant; but she met him
eagerly and with a mystifying appeal in her welcome. He began at once,
without attempting to bridge the time since they had met with any
"I have come to speak to you about--that--Russian, about Baron Belsky"--
"Yes, yes!" she returned, anxiously. "Then you have hea'd"
"He came to me last night, and--I want to say that I feel myself to blame
for what he has done."
"Yes; I. I never spoke of you by name to him; I didn't dream of his ever
seeing you, or that he would dare to speak to you of what I told him.
But I believe he meant no wrong; and it was I who did the harm, whether I
authorized it or not."
"Yes, yes!" she returned, with the effect of putting his words aside as
something of no moment. "Have they head anything more?"
"How, anything more?" he returned, in a daze.
"Then, don't you know? About his falling into the river? I know he
didn't drown himself."
Gregory shook his head. "When--what makes them think"--He stopped and
stared at her.
"Why, they know that he went down to the Ponte Trinity last night;
somebody saw him going: And then that peasant found his hat with his name
in it in the drift-wood below the Cascine"--
"Yes," said Gregory, lifelessly. He let his arms drop forward, and his
helpless hands hang over his knees; his gaze fell from her face to the
Neither spoke for a time that seemed long, and then it was Clementina who
spoke. "But it isn't true!"
"Oh, yes, it is," said Gregory, as before.
"Mr. Hinkle doesn't believe it is," she urged.
"He's an American who's staying in Florence. He came this mo'ning to
tell me about it. Even if he's drowned Mr. Hinkle believes he didn't
mean to; he must have just fallen in."
"What does it matter?" demanded Gregory, lifting his heavy eyes.
"Whether he meant it or not, I caused it. I drove him to it."
"You drove him?"
"Yes. He told me what he had said to you, and I--said that he had
spoiled my life--I don't know!"
"Well, he had no right to do it; but I didn't blame you," Clementina
"It's too late. It can't be helped now." Gregory turned from the mercy
that could no longer save him. He rose dizzily, and tried to get himself
"You mustn't go!" she interposed. "I don't believe you made him do it.
Mr. Hinkle will be back soon, and he will"--
"If he should bring word that it was true?" Gregory asked.
"Well," said Clementina, "then we should have to bear it."
A sense of something finer than the surface meaning of her words pierced
his morbid egotism. "I'm ashamed," he said. "Will you let me stay?"
"Why, yes, you must," she said, and if there was any censure of him at
the bottom of her heart, she kept it there, and tried to talk him away
from his remorse, which was in his temperament, perhaps, rather than his
conscience; she made the time pass till there came a knock at the door,
and she opened it to Hinkle.
"I didn't send up my name; I thought I wouldn't stand upon ceremony just
now," he said.
"Oh, no!" she returned. "Mr. Hinkle, this is Mr. Gregory. Mr. Gregory
knew Mr. Belsky, and he thinks"--
She turned to Gregory for prompting, and he managed to say, "I don't
believe he was quite the sort of person to--And yet he might--he was in
"Money trouble?" asked Hinkle. "They say these Russians have a perfect
genius for debt. I had a little inspiration, since I saw you, but there
doesn't seems to be anything in it, so far." He addressed himself to
Clementina, but he included Gregory in what he said. "It struck me that
he might have been running his board, and had used this drowning episode
as a blind. But I've been around to his hotel, and he's settled up, all
fair and square enough. The landlord tried to think of something he
hadn't paid, but he couldn't; and I never saw a man try harder, either."
Clementina smiled; she put her hand to her mouth to keep from laughing;
but Gregory frowned his distress in the untimely droning.
"I don't give up my theory that it's a fake of some kind, though. He
could leave behind a good many creditors besides his landlord. The
authorities have sealed up his effects, and they've done everything but
call out the fire department; that's on duty looking after the freshet,
and it couldn't be spared. I'll go out now and slop round a little more
in the cause, "Hinkle looked down at his shoes and his drabbled trousers,
and wiped the perspiration from his face, "but I thought I'd drop in, and
tell you not to worry about it, Miss Clementina. I would stake anything
you pleased on Mr. Belsky's safety. Mr. Gregory, here, looks like he
would be willing to take odds," he suggested.
Gregory commanded himself from his misery to say, "I wish I could
"Of course, we don't want to think that the man's a fraud, any more than
that he's dead. Perhaps we might hit upon some middle course. At any
rate, it's worth trying."
"May I--do you object to my joining you?" Gregory asked.
"Why, come!" Hinkle hospitably assented. "Glad to have you. I'll be
back again, Miss Clementina!"
Gregory was going away without any form of leavetaking; but he turned
back to ask, "Will you let me come back, too?"
"Why, suttainly, Mr. Gregory," said Clementina, and she went to find Mrs.
Lander, whom she found in bed.
"I thought I'd lay down," she explained. "I don't believe I'm goin' to
be sick, but it's one of my pooa days, and I might just as well be in bed
as not." Clementina agreed with her, and Mrs. Lander asked: "You hea'd
"No. Mr. Hinkle has just been he'a, but he hadn't any news."
Mrs. Lander turned her face toward the wall. "Next thing, he'll be
drownin' himself. I neva wanted you should have anything to do with the
fellas that go to that woman's. There ain't any of 'em to be depended
It was the first time that her growing jealousy of Miss Milray had openly
declared itself; but Clementina had felt it before, without knowing how
to meet it. As an escape from it now she was almost willing to say,
"Mrs. Lander, I want to tell you that Mr. Gregory has just been he'a,
"Yes. Don't you remember? At the Middlemount? The first summa? He was
the headwaita--that student."
Mrs. Lander jerked her head round on the pillow. "Well, of all the--What
does he want, over he'a?"
"Nothing. That is--he's travelling with a pupil that he's preparing for
college, and--he came to see us"--
"D'you tell him I couldn't see him?"
"I guess he'd think I was a pretty changed pusson! Now, I want you
should stay with me, Clementina, and if anybody else comes"--
Maddalena entered the room with a card which she gave to the girl.
"Who is it?" Mrs. Lander demanded.
"Of cou'se! Well, you may just send wo'd that you can't--Or, no; you
must! She'd have it all ova the place, by night, that I wouldn't let
you see her. But don't you make any excuse for me! If she asks after
me, don't you say I'm sick! You say I'm not at home."
"I've come about that little wretch," Miss Milray began, after kissing
Clementina. "I didn't know but you had heard something I hadn't, or I
had heard something you hadn't. You know I belong to the Hinkle
persuasion: I think Belsky's run his board--as Mr. Hinkle calls it."
Clementina explained how this part of the Hinkle theory had failed, and
then Miss Milray devolved upon the belief that he had run his tailor's
bill or his shoemaker's. "They are delightful, those Russians, but
they're born insolvent. I don't believe he's drowned himself. How," she
broke off to ask, in a burlesque whisper, "is-the-old-tabby?" She
laughed, for answer to her own question, and then with another sudden
diversion she demanded of a look in Clementina's face which would not be
laughed away, "Well, my dear, what is it?"
"Miss Milray," said the girl, "should you think me very silly, if I told
"Not in the least!" cried Miss Milray, joyously. "It's the final proof
of your wisdom that I've been waiting for?"
"It's because Mr. Belsky is all mixed up in it," said Clementina, as if
some excuse were necessary, and then she told the story of her love
affair with Gregory. Miss Milray punctuated the several facts with vivid
nods, but at the end she did not ask her anything, and the girl somehow
felt the freer to add: "I believe I will tell you his name. It is Mr.
"And he's been in Egypt?"
"Yes, the whole winta."
"Then he's the one that my sister-in-law has been writing me about!"
"Oh, did he meet her the'a?"
"I should think so! And he'll meet her there, very soon. She's coming,
with my poor brother. I meant to tell you, but this ridiculous Belsky
business drove it out of my head."
"And do you think," Clementina entreated, "that he was to blame?"
"Why, I don't believe he's done it, you know."
"Oh, I didn't mean Mr. Belsky. I meant--Mr. Gregory. For telling Mr.
"Certainly not. Men always tell those things to some one, I suppose.
Nobody was to blame but Belsky, for his meddling."
Miss Milray rose and shook out her plumes for flight, as if she were
rather eager for flight, but at the little sigh with which Clementina
said, "Yes, that is what I thought," she faltered.
"I was going to run away, for I shouldn't like to mix myself up in your
affair--it's certainly a very strange one--unless I was sure I could help
you. But if you think I can"--
Clementina shook her head. "I don't believe you can," she said, with a
candor so wistful that Miss Milray stopped quite short. "How does Mr.
Gregory take this Belsky business?" she asked.
"I guess he feels it moa than I do," said the girl.
"He shows his feeling more?"
"Yes--no--He believes he drove him to it."
Miss Milray took her hand, for parting, but did not kiss her. "I won't
advise you, my dear. In fact, yon haven't asked me to. You'll know what
to do, if you haven't done it already; girls usually have, when they want
advice. Was there something you were going to say?"
"Oh, no. Nothing. Do you think," she hesitated, appealingly, "do you
think we are-engaged?"
"If he's anything of a man at all, he must think he is."
"Yes," said Clementina, wistfully, "I guess he does."
Miss Milray looked sharply at her. "And does he think you are?"
"I don't know--he didn't say."
"Well," said Miss Milray, rather dryly, "then it's something for you to
think over pretty carefully."
Hinkle came back in the afternoon to make a hopeful report of his failure
to learn anything more of Belsky, but Gregory did not come with him. He
came the next morning long before Clementina expected visitors, and he
was walking nervously up and down the room when she appeared. As if he
could not speak, he held toward her without speaking a telegram in
English, dated that day in Rome:
"Deny report of my death. Have written.
She looked up at Gregory from the paper, when she had read it, with
joyful eyes. "Oh, I am so glad for you! I am so glad he is alive."
He took the dispatch from her hand. "I brought it to you as soon as it
"Yes, yes! Of cou'se!"
"I must go now and do what he says--I don't know how yet." He stopped,
and then went on from a different impulse. "Clementina, it isn't a
question now of that wretch's life and death, and I wish I need never
speak of him again. But what he told you was true." He looked
steadfastly at her, and she realized how handsome he was, and how well
dressed. His thick red hair seemed to have grown darker above his
forehead; his moustache was heavier, and it curved in at the corners of
his mouth; he bore himself with a sort of self-disdain that enhanced his
splendor. "I have never changed toward you; I don't say it to make favor
with you; I don't expect to do that now; but it is true. That night,
there at Middlemount, I tried to take back what I said, because I
believed that I ought."
"Oh, yes, I knew that," said Clementina, in the pause he made.
"We were both too young; I had no prospect in life; I saw, the instant
after I had spoken, that I had no right to let you promise anything.
I tried to forget you; I couldn't. I tried to make you forget me."
He faltered, and she did not speak, but her head drooped a little.
"I won't ask how far I succeeded. I always hoped that the time would
come when I could speak to you again. When I heard from Fane that you
were at Woodlake, I wished to come out and see you, but I hadn't the
courage, I hadn't the right. I've had to come to you without either,
now. Did he speak to you about me?"
"I thought he was beginning to, once; but he neva did."
"It didn't matter; it could only have made bad worse. It can't help me
to say that somehow I was wishing and trying to do what was right; but I
"Oh, I know that, Mr. Gregory," said Clementina, generously.
"Then you didn't doubt me, in spite of all?"
"I thought you would know what to do. No, I didn't doubt you, exactly."
"I didn't deserve your trust!" he cried. "How came that man to mention
me?" he demanded, abruptly, after a moment's silence.
"Mr. Belsky? It was the first night I saw him, and we were talking about
Americans, and he began to tell me about an American friend of his, who
was very conscientious. I thought it must be you the fust moment," said
Clementina, smiling with an impersonal pleasure in the fact.
"From the conscientiousness?" he asked, in bitter self-irony.
"Why, yes," she returned, simply. "That was what made me think of you.
And the last time when he began to talk about you, I couldn't stop him,
although I knew he had no right to."
"He had no right. But I gave him the power to do it! He meant no harm,
but I enabled him to do all the harm."
"Oh, if he's only alive, now, there is no harm!"
He looked into her eyes with a misgiving from which be burst impetuously.
"Then you do care for me still, after all that I have done to make you
detest me?" He started toward her, but she shrank back.
"I didn't mean that," she hesitated.
"You know that I love you,--that I have always loved you?"
"Yes," she assented. "But you might be sorry again that you had said
it." It sounded like coquetry, but he knew it was not coquetry.
"Never! I've wished to say it again, ever since that night at
Middlemount; I have always felt bound by what I said then, though I took
back my words for your sake. But the promise was always there, and my
life was in it. You believe that?"
"Why, I always believed what you said, Mr. Gregory."
Clementina paused, with her head seriously on one side. "I should want
to think about it before I said anything."
"You are right," he submitted, dropping his outstretched arms to his
side. "I have been thinking only of myself, as usual."
"No," she protested, compassionately. "But doesn't it seem as if we
ought to be su'a, this time? I did ca'e for you then, but I was very
young, and I don't know yet--I thought I had always felt just; as you
did, but now--Don't you think we had both betta wait a little while till
we ah' moa suttain?"
They stood looking at each other, and he said, with a kind of passionate
self-denial, "Yes, think it over for me, too. I will come back, if you
will let me."
"Oh, thank you!" she cried after him, gratefully, as if his forbearance
were the greatest favor.
When he was gone she tried to release herself from the kind of abeyance
in which she seemed to have gone back and been as subject to him as in
the first days when he had awed her and charmed her with his superiority
at Middlemount, and he again older and freer as she had grown since.
He came back late in the afternoon, looking jaded and distraught.
Hinkle, who looked neither, was with him. "Well," he began, "this is the
greatest thing in my experience. Belsky's not only alive and well, but
Mr. Gregory and I are both at large. I did think, one time, that the
police would take us into custody on account of our morbid interest in
the thing, and I don't believe we should have got off, if the Consul
hadn't gone bail for us, so to speak. I thought we had better take the
Consul in, on our way, and it was lucky we did."
Clementina did not understand all the implications, but she was willing
to take Mr. Hinkle's fun on trust. "I don't believe you'll convince Mrs.
Landa that Mr. Belsky's alive and well, till you bring him back to say
"Is that so!" said Hinkle. "Well, we must have him brought back by the
authorities, then. Perhaps they'll bring him, anyway. They can't try
him for suicide, but as I understand the police, here, a man can't lose
his hat over a bridge in Florence with impunity, especially in a time of
high water. Anyway, they're identifying Belsky by due process of law in
Rome, now, and I guess Mr. Gregory"--he nodded toward Gregory, who sat
silent and absent "will be kept under surveillance till the whole mystery
is cleared up."
Clementina responded gayly still, but with less and less sincerity, and
she let Hinkle go at last with the feeling that he knew she wished him to
go. He made a brave show of not seeing this, and when he was gone, she
remembered that she had not thanked him for the trouble he had taken on
her account, and her heart ached after him with a sense of his sweetness
and goodness, which she had felt from the first through his quaint
drolling. It was as if the door which closed upon him shut her out of
the life she had been living of late, and into the life of the past where
she was subject again to the spell of Gregory's mood; it was hardly his
He began at once: "I wished to make you say something this morning that I
have no right to hear you say, yet; and I have been trying ever since to
think how I could ask you whether you could share my life with me, and
yet not ask you to do it. But I can't do anything without knowing--
You may not care for what my life is to be, at all!"
Clementina's head drooped a little, but she answered distinctly, "I do
ca'e, Mr. Gregory."
"Thank you for that much; I don't count upon more than you have said.
Clementina, I am going to be a missionary. I think I shall ask to be
sent to China; I've not decided yet. My life will be hard; it will be
full of danger and privation; it will be exile. You will have to think
of sharing such a life if you think"--
He stopped; the time had come for her to speak, and she said, "I knew you
wanted to be a missionary"--
"And--and--you would go with me? You would"--He started toward her, and
she did not shrink from him, now; but he checked himself. "But you
mustn't, you know, for my sake."
"I don't believe I quite undastand," she faltered.
"You must not do it for me, but for what makes me do it. Without that
our life, our work, could have no consecration."
She gazed at him in patient, faintly smiling bewilderment, as if it were
something he would unriddle for her when he chose.
"We mustn't err in this; it would be worse than error; it would be sin."
He took a turn about the room, and then stopped before her. "Will you--
will you join me in a prayer for guidance, Clementina?"
"I--I don't know," she hesitated. "I will, but--do you think I had
He began, "Why, surely"--After a moment he asked gravely, "You believe
that our actions will be guided aright, if we seek help?"
"And that if we do not, we shall stumble in our ignorance?"
"I don't know. I never thought of that."
"Never thought of it"--
"We never did it in our family. Father always said that if we really
wanted to do right we could find the way." Gregory looked daunted, and
then he frowned darkly. "Are you provoked with me? Do you think what
I have said is wrong?"
"No, no! You must say what you believe. It would be double hypocrisy in
me if I prevented you."
"But I would do it, if you wanted me to," she said.
"Oh, for me, for ME!" he protested. "I will try to tell you what I mean,
and why you must not, for that very reason." But he had to speak of
himself, of the miracle of finding her again by the means which should
have lost her to him forever; and of the significance of this. Then it
appeared to him that he could not reject such a leading without error,
without sin. "Such a thing could not have merely happened."
It seemed so to Clementina, too; she eagerly consented that this was
something they must think of, as well. But the light waned, the dark
thickened in the room before he left her to do so. Then he said
fervently, "We must not doubt that everything will come right," and his
words seemed an effect of inspiration to them both.
After Gregory was gone a misgiving began in Clementina's mind, which grew
more distinct, through all the difficulties of accounting to Mrs. Lander
for his long stay, The girl could see that it was with an obscure
jealousy that she pushed her questions, and said at last, "That Mr.
Hinkle is about the best of the lot. He's the only one that's eva had
the mannas to ask after me, except that lo'd. He did."
Clementina could not pretend that Gregory had asked, but she could not
blame him for a forgetfulness of Mrs. Lander which she had shared with
him. This helped somehow to deepen the misgiving which followed her from
Mrs. Lander's bed to her own, and haunted her far into the night. She
could escape from it only by promising herself to deal with it the first
thing in the morning. She did this in terms much briefer than she
thought she could have commanded. She supposed she would have to write a
very long letter, but she came to the end of all she need say, in a very
DEAR MR. GREGORY:
"I have been thinking about what you said yesterday, and I have to
tell you something. Then you can do what is right for both of us;
you will know better than I can. But I want you to understand that
if I go with you in your missionary life, I shall do it for you, and
not for anything else. I would go anywhere and live anyhow for you,
but it would be for you; I do not believe that I am religious, and I
know that I should not do it for religion.
"That is all; but I could not get any peace till I let you know just
how I felt.
The letter went early in the morning, though not so early but it was put
in Gregory's hand as he was leaving his hotel to go to Mrs. Lander's. He
tore it open, and read it on the way, and for the first moment it seemed
as if it were Providence leading him that he might lighten Clementina's
heart of its doubts with the least delay. He had reasoned that if she
would share for his sake the life that he should live for righteousness'
sake they would be equally blest in it, and it would be equally
consecrated in both. But this luminous conclusion faded in his thought
as he hurried on, and he found himself in her presence with something
like a hope that she would be inspired to help him.
His soul lifted at the sound of the gay voice in which she asked, "Did
you get my letta?" and it seemed for the instant as if there could be no
trouble that their love could not overcome.
"Yes," he said, and he put his arms around her, but with a provisionality
in his embrace which she subtly perceived.
"And what did you think of it?" she asked. "Did you think I was silly?"
He was aware that she had trusted him to do away her misgiving. "No,
no," he answered, guiltily. "Wiser than I am, always. I--I want to talk
with you about it, Clementina. I want you to advise me."
He felt her shrink from him, and with a pang he opened his arms to free
her. But it was right; he must. She had been expecting him to say that
there was nothing in her misgiving, and he could not say it.
"Clementina," he entreated, "why do you think you are not religious?"
"Why, I have never belonged to chu'ch," she answered simply. He looked
so daunted, that she tried to soften the blow after she had dealt it.
"Of course, I always went to chu'ch, though father and motha didn't.
I went to the Episcopal--to Mr. Richling's. But I neva was confirmed."
"But-you believe in God?"
"And in the Bible?"
"Why, of cou'se!"
"And that it is our duty to bear the truth to those who have never heard
"I know that is the way you feel about it; but I am not certain that I
should feel so myself if you didn't want me to. That's what I got to
thinking about last night." She added hopefully, "But perhaps it isn't
so great a thing as I"--
"It's a very great thing," he said, and from standing in front of her, he
now sat down beyond a little table before her sofa. "How can I ask you
to share my life if you don't share my faith?"
"Why, I should try to believe everything that you do, of cou'se."
"Because I do?"
"You wring my heart! Are you willing to study--to look into these
questions--to--to"--It all seemed very hopeless, very absurd, but she
"Yes, but I believe it would all come back to just where it is, now."
"What you say, Clementina, makes me so happy; but it ought to make me--
miserable! And you would do all this, be all this for me, a wretched and
erring creature of the dust, and yet not do it for--God?"
Clementina could only say, "Perhaps if He meant me to do it for Him, He
would have made me want to. He made you."
"Yes," said Gregory, and for a long time he could not say any more. He
sat with his elbow on the table, and his head against his lifted hand.
"You see," she began, gently, "I got to thinking that even if I eva came
to believe what you wanted me to, I should be doing it after all, because
you wanted me to"--
"Yes, yes," he answered, desolately. "There is no way out of it. If you
only hated me, Clementina, despised me--I don't mean that. But if you
were not so good, I could have a more hope for you--for myself. It's
because you are so good that I can't make myself wish to change you, and
yet I know--I am afraid that if you told me my life and objects were
wrong, I should turn from them, and be whatever you said. Do you tell me
"No, indeed!" cried Clementina, with abhorrence. "Then I should despise
He seemed not to heed her. He moved his lips as if he were talking to
himself, and he pleaded, "What shall we do?"
"We must try to think it out, and if we can't--if you can't let me give
up to you unless I do it for the same reason that you do; and if I can't
let you give up for me, and I know I could neva do that; then--
"Do you mean, we must part? Not see each other again?"
"What use would it be?"
"None," he owned. She had risen, and he stood up perforce. "May I--may
I come back to tell you?"
"Tell me what?" she asked.
"You are right! If I can't make it right, I won't come. But I won't say
good bye. I--can't."
She let him go, and Maddalena came in at the door. "Signorina," she
said, "the signora is not well. Shall I send for the doctor?"
"Yes, yes, Maddalena. Run!" cried Clementina, distractedly. She hurried
to Mrs. Lander's room, where she found her too sick for reproaches, for
anything but appeals for help and pity. The girl had not to wait for
Doctor Welwright's coming to understand that the attack was severer than
It lasted through the day, and she could see that he was troubled. It
had not followed upon any imprudeuce, as Mrs. Lander pathetically called
Clementina to witness when her pain had been so far quelled that she
could talk of her seizure.
He found her greatly weakened by it the next day, and he sat looking
thoughtfully at her before he said that she needed toning up. She caught
at the notion. "Yes, yes! That's what I need, docta! Toning up!
That's what I need."
He suggested, "How would you like to try the sea air, and the baths--at
"Oh, anything, anywhere, to get out of this dreadful hole! I ha'n't had
a well minute since I came. And Clementina," the sick woman whimpered,
"is so taken up all the time, he'a, that I can't get the right
The doctor looked compassionately away from the girl, and said, "Well,
we must arrange about getting you off, then."
"But I want you should go with me, doctor, and see me settled all right.
You can, can't you? I sha'n't ca'e how much it costs?"
The doctor said gravely he thought he could manage it and he ignored the
long unconscious sigh of relief that Clementina drew.
In all her confusing anxieties for Mrs. Lander, Gregory remained at the
bottom of her heart a dumb ache. When the pressure of her fears was
taken from her she began to suffer for him consciously; then a letter
came from him:
"I cannot make it right. It is where it was, and I feel that I must
not see you again. I am trying to do right, but with the fear that
I am wrong. Send some word to help me before I go away to-morrow.
It was what she had expected, she knew now, but it was none the less to
be borne because of her expectation. She wrote back:
"I believe you are doing the best you can, and I shall always
Her note brought back a long letter from him. He said that whatever he
did, or wherever he went, he should try to be true to her ideal of him.
If they renounced their love now for the sake of what seemed higher than
their love, they might suffer, but they could not choose but do as they
Clementina was trying to make what she could of this when Miss Milray's
name came up, and Miss Milray followed it.
"I wanted to ask after Mrs. Lander, and I want you to tell her I did.
Will you? Dr. Welwright says he's going to take her to Venice. Well,
I'm sorry--sorry for your going, Clementina, and I'm truly sorry for the
cause of it. I shall miss you, my dear, I shall indeed. You know I
always wanted to steal you, but you'll do me the justice to say I never
did, and I won't try, now."
"Perhaps I wasn't worth stealing," Clementina suggested, with a
ruefulness in her smile that went to Miss Milray's heart.
She put her arms round her and kissed her. I wasn't very kind to you, the
other day, Clementina, was I?"
"I don't know," Clementina faltered, with half-averted face.
"Yes, you do! I was trying to make-believe that I didn't want to meddle
with your affairs; but I was really vexed that you hadn't told me your
story before. It hasn't taken me all this time to reflect that you
couldn't, but it has to make myself come and confess that I had been dry
and cold with you." She hesitated. "It's come out all right, hasn't it,
Clementina?" she asked, tenderly. "You see I want to meddle, now."
"We ah' trying to think so," sighed the girl.
"Tell me about it!" Miss Milray pulled her down on the sofa with her, and
modified her embrace to a clasp of Clementina's bands.
"Why, there isn't much to tell," she began, but she told what there was,
and Miss Milray kept her countenance concerning the scruple that had
parted Clementina and her lover. "Perhaps he wouldn't have thought of
it," she said, in a final self-reproach, if I hadn't put it into his
"Well, then, I'm not sorry you put it into his head," cried Miss Milray.
"Clementina, may I say what I think of Mr. Gregory's performance?"
"Why, certainly, Miss Milray!"
I think he's not merely a gloomy little bigot, but a very hard-hearted
little wretch, and I'm glad you're rid of him. No, stop! Let me go on!
You said I might! she persisted, at a protest which imparted itself from
Clementina's restive hands. "It was selfish and cruel of him to let you
believe that he had forgotten you. It doesn't make it right now, when an
accident has forced him to tell you that he cared for you all along."
"Why, do you look at it that way, Miss Milray? If he was doing it on my
"He may think he was doing it on your account, but I think he was doing
it on his own. In such a thing as that, a man is bound by his mistakes,
if he has made any. He can't go back of them by simply ignoring them.
It didn't make it the same for you when he decided for your sake that he
would act as if he had never spoken to you."
"I presume he thought that it would come right, sometime," Clementina
urged. "I did."
"Yes, that was very well for you, but it wasn't at all well for him. He
behaved cruelly; there's no other word for it."
"I don't believe he meant to be cruel, Miss Milray," said Clementina.
"You're not sorry you've broken with him?" demanded Miss Milray,
severely, and she let go of Clementina's hands.
"I shouldn't want him to think I hadn't been fai'a."
"I don't understand what you mean by not being fair," said Miss Milray,
after a study of the girl's eyes.
"I mean," Clementina explained, "that if I let him think the religion was
all the'e was, it wouldn't have been fai'a."
Why, weren't you sincere about that?"
"Of cou'se I was!" returned the girl, almost indignantly. "But if the'e
was anything else, I ought to have told him that, too; and I couldn't."
"Then you can't tell me, of course?" Miss Milray rose in a little pique.
"Perhaps some day I will," the girl entreated. "And perhaps that was
Miss Milray laughed. "Well, if that was enough to end it, I'm satisfied,
and I'll let you keep your mystery--if it is one--till we meet in Venice;
I shall be there early in June. Good bye, dear, and say good bye to Mrs.
Lander for me."
Dr. Welwright got his patient a lodging on the Grand Canal in Venice, and
decided to stay long enough to note the first effect of the air and the
baths, and to look up a doctor to leave her with.
This took something more than a week, which could not all be spent in
Mrs. Lander's company, much as she wished it. There were hours which he
gave to going about in a gondola with Clementina, whom he forbade to be
always at the invalid's side. He tried to reassure her as to Mrs.
Lander's health, when be found her rather mute and absent, while they
drifted in the silvery sun of the late April weather, just beginning to
be warm, but not warm enough yet for the tent of the open gondola. He
asked her about Mrs. Lander's family, and Clementina could only tell him
that she had always said she had none. She told him the story of her own
relation to her, and he said, "Yes, I heard something of that from Miss
Milray." After a moment of silence, during which he looked curiously
into the girl's eyes, "Do you think you can bear a little more care, Miss
"I think I can," said Clementina, not very courageously, but patiently.
"It's only this, and I wouldn't tell you if I hadn't thought you equal to
it. Mrs. Lander's case puzzles me: But I shall leave Dr. Tradonico
watching it, and if it takes the turn that there's a chance it may take,
he will tell you, and you'd better find out about her friends, and--let
them know. That's all."
"Yes," said Clementina, as if it were not quite enough. Perhaps she did
not fully realize all that the doctor had intended; life alone is
credible to the young; life and the expectation of it.
The night before he was to return to Florence there was a full moon; and
when he had got Mrs. Lander to sleep he asked Clementina if she would not
go out on the lagoon with him. He assigned no peculiar virtue to the
moonlight, and he had no new charge to give her concerning his patient
when they were embarked. He seemed to wish her to talk about herself,
and when she strayed from the topic, he prompted her return. Then he
wished to know how she liked Florence, as compared with Venice, and all
the other cities she had seen, and when she said she had not seen any but
Boston and New York, and London for one night, he wished to know whether
she liked Florence as well. She said she liked it best of all, and he
told her he was very glad, for he liked it himself better than any place
he had ever seen. He spoke of his family in America, which was formed of
grownup brothers and sisters, so that he had none of the closest and
tenderest ties obliging him to return; there was no reason why he should
not spend all his days in Florence, except for some brief visits home.
It would be another thing with such a place as Venice; he could never
have the same settled feeling there: it was beautiful, but it was unreal;
it would be like spending one's life at the opera. Did not she think so?
She thought so, oh, yes; she never could have the home-feeling at Venice
that she had at Florence.
"Exactly; that's what I meant--a home-feeling; I'm glad you had it." He
let the gondola dip and slide forward almost a minute before he added,
with an effect of pulling a voice up out of his throat somewhere, "How
would you like to live there--with me--as my wife?"
"Why, what do you mean, Dr. Welwright?" asked Clementina, with a vague
Dr. Welwright laughed, too; but not vaguely; there was a mounting
cheerfulness in his laugh. "What I say. I hope it isn't very
"No; but I never thought of such a thing."
"Perhaps you will think of it now."
"But you're not in ea'nest!"
"I'm thoroughly in earnest," said the doctor, and he seemed very much
amused at her incredulity.
"Then; I'm sorry," she answered. "I couldn't."
"No?" he said, still with amusement, or with a courage that took that
form. "Why not?"
"Because I am--not free."
For an interval they were so silent that they could hear each other
breathe: Then, after be had quietly bidden the gondolier go back to their
hotel, he asked, "If you had been free you might have answered me
"I don't know," said Clementina, candidly. "I never thought of it."
"It isn't because you disliked me?"
"Then I must get what comfort I can out of that. I hope, with all my
heart, that you may be happy."
"Why, Dr. Welwright!" said Clementina. "Don't you suppose that I should
be glad to do it, if I could? Any one would!"
"It doesn't seem very probable, just now," he answered, humbly.
"But I'll believe it if you say so."
"I do say so, and I always shall."
Dr. Welwright professed himself ready for his departure, at breakfast
next morning and he must have made his preparations very late or very
early. He was explicit in his charges to Clementina concerning Mrs.
Lander, and at the end of them, he said, "She will not know when she is
asking too much of you, but you will, and you must act upon your
knowledge. And remember, if you are in need of help, of any kind, you're
to let me know. Will you?"
"Yes, I will, Dr. Welwright."
"People will be going away soon, and I shall not be so busy. I can come
back if Dr. Tradonico thinks it necessary."
He left Mrs. Lander full of resolutions to look after her own welfare in
every way, and she went out in her gondola the same morning. She was not
only to take the air as much as possible, but she was to amuse herself,
and she decided that she would have her second breakfast at the Caffe
Florian. Venice was beginning to fill up with arrivals from the south,
and it need not have been so surprising to find Mr. Hinkle there over a
cup of coffee. He said he had just that moment been thinking of her, and
meaning to look her up at the hotel. He said that he had stopped at
Venice because it was such a splendid place to introduce his gleaner; he
invited Mrs. Lander to become a partner in the enterprise; he promised
her a return of fifty per cent. on her investment. If he could once
introduce his gleaner in Venice, he should be a made man. He asked Mrs.
Lander, with real feeling, how she was; as for Miss Clementina, he need
"Oh, indeed, the docta thinks she wants a little lookin' after, too,"
said Mrs. Lander.
"Well, about as much as you do, Mrs. Lander," Hinkle allowed, tolerantly.
"I don't know how it affects you, ma'am, such a meeting of friends in
these strange waters, but it's building me right up. It's made another
man of me, already, and I've got the other man's appetite, too. Mind my
letting him have his breakfast here with me at your table?" He bade the
waiter just fetch his plate. He attached himself to them; he spent the
day with them. Mrs. Lander asked him to dinner at her lodgings, and left
him to Clementina over the coffee.
"She's looking fine, doesn't the doctor think? This air will do
everything for her."
"Oh, yes; she's a great deal betta than she was befo'e we came."
"That's right. Well, now, you've got me here, you must let me make
myself useful any way I can. I've got a spare month that I can put in
here in Venice, just as well as not; I sha'n't want to push north till
the frost's out of the ground. They wouldn't have a chance to try my
gleaner, on the other side of the Alps much before September, anyway.
Now, in Ohio, the part I come from, we cut our wheat in June. When is
your wheat harvest at Middlemount?"
Clementina laughed. "I don't believe we've got any. I guess it's all
"I wish you could see our country out there, once."
"Is it nice?"
"Nice? We're right in the centre of the state, measuring from north to
south, on the old National Road." Clementina had never heard of this
road, but she did not say so. "About five miles back from the Ohio
River, where the coal comes up out of the ground, because there's so much
of it there's no room for it below. Our farm's in a valley, along a
creek bottom, what you Yankees call an intervals; we've got three hundred
acres. My grandfather took up the land, and then he went back to
Pennsylvania to get the girl he'd left there--we were Pennsylvania Dutch;
that's where I got my romantic name--they drove all the way out to Ohio
again in his buggy, and when he came in sight of our valley with his
bride, he stood up in his buggy and pointed with his whip. 'There! As
far as the sky is blue, it's all ours!'"
Clementina owned the charm of his story as he seemed to expect, but when
he said, "Yes, I want you to see that country, some day," she answered
"It must be lovely. But I don't expect to go West, eva."
"I like your Eastern way of saying everr," said Hinkle, and he said it in
his Western way. "I like New England folks."
Clementina smiled discreetly. "They have their faults like everybody
else, I presume."
"Ah, that's a regular Yankee word: presume," said Hinkle. "Our teacher,
my first one, always said presume. She was from your State, too."
In the time of provisional quiet that followed for Clementina, she was
held from the remorses and misgivings that had troubled her before Hinkle
came. She still thought that she had let Dr. Welwright go away believing
that she had not cared enough for the offer which had surprised her so
much, and she blamed herself for not telling him how doubly bound she was
to Gregory; though when she tried to put her sense of this in words to
herself she could not make out that she was any more bound to him than
she had been before they met in Florence, unless she wished to be so.
Yet somehow in this time of respite, neither the regret for Dr. Welwright
nor the question of Gregory persisted very strongly, and there were whole
days when she realized before she slept that she had not thought of
She was in full favor again with Mrs. Lander, whom there was no one to
embitter in her jealous affection. Hinkle formed their whole social
world, and Mrs. Lander made the most of him. She was always having him
to the dinners which her landlord served her from a restaurant in her
apartment, and taking him out with Clementina in her gondola. He came
into a kind of authority with them both which was as involuntary with him
as with them, and was like an effect of his constant wish to be doing
something for them.
One morning when they were all going out in Mrs. Lander's gondola, she
sent Clementina back three times to their rooms for outer garments of
differing density. When she brought the last Mrs. Lander frowned.
"This won't do. I've got to have something else--something lighter and
"I can't go back any moa, Mrs. Landa," cried the girl, from the
exasperation of her own nerves.
"Then I will go back myself," said Mrs. Lander with dignity, "and we
sha'n't need the gondoler any more this mo'ning," she added, "unless you
and Mr. Hinkle wants to ride."
She got ponderously out of the boat with the help of the gondolier's
elbow, and marched into the house again, while Clementina followed her.
She did not offer to help her up the stairs; Hinkle had to do it, and he
met the girl slowly coming up as he returned from delivering Mrs. Lander
over to Maddalena.
"She's all right, now," he ventured to say, tentatively.
"Is she?" Clementina coldly answered.
In spite of her repellent air, he persisted, "She's a pretty sick woman,
"The docta doesn't say."
"Well, I think it would be safe to act on that supposition. Miss
Clementina--I think she wants to see you."
"I'm going to her directly."
Hinkle paused, rather daunted. "She wants me to go for the doctor."
"She's always wanting the docta." Clementina lifted her eyes and looked
very coldly at him.
"If I were you I'd go up right away," he said, boldly.
She felt that she ought to resent his interference, but the mild entreaty
of his pale blue eyes, or the elder-brotherly injunction of his smile,
forbade her. "Did she ask for me?"
"I'll go to her," she said, and she kept herself from smiling at the long
sigh of relief he gave as she passed him on the stairs.
Mrs. Lander began as soon as she entered her room, "Well, I was just
wonderin' if you was goin' to leave me here all day alone, while you
staid down the'e, carryin' on with that simpleton. I don't know what's
got into the men."
"Mr. Hinkle has gone for the docta," said Clementina, trying to get into
her voice the kindness she was trying to feel.
"Well, if I have one of my attacks, now, you'll have yourself to thank
By the time Dr. Tradonico appeared Mrs. Lander was so much better that in
her revulsion of feeling she was all day rather tryingly affectionate in
her indirect appeals for Clementina's sympathy.
"I don't want you should mind what I say, when I a'n't feelin' just
right," she began that evening, after she had gone to bed, and Clementina
sat looking out of the open window, on the moonlit lagoon.
"Oh, no," the girl answered, wearily.
Mrs. Lander humbled herself farther. "I'm real sorry I plagued you so,
to-day, and I know Mr. Hinkle thought I was dreadful, but I couldn't help
it. I should like to talk with you, Clementina, about something that's
worryin' me, if you a'n't busy."
"I'm not busy, now, Mrs. Lander," said Clementina, a little coldly, and
relaxing the clasp of her hands; to knit her fingers together had been
her sole business, and she put even this away,
She did not come nearer the bed, and Mrs. Lander was obliged to speak
without the advantage of noting the effect of her words upon her in her
face. "It's like this: What am I agoin' to do for them relations of Mr.
Landa's out in Michigan?"
"I don't know. What relations?"
"I told you about 'em: the only ones he's got: his half-sista's children.
He neva saw 'em, and he neva wanted to; but they're his kin, and it was
his money. It don't seem right to pass 'em ova. Do you think it would
"Why, of cou'se not, Mrs. Lander. It wouldn't be right at all."
Mrs. Lander looked relieved, and she said, as if a little surprised, "I'm
glad you feel that way; I should feel just so, myself. I mean to do by
you just what I always said I should. I sha'n't forget you, but whe'e
the'e's so much I got to thinkin' the'e'd ought to some of it go to his
folks, whetha he ca'ed for 'em or not. It's worried me some, and I guess
if anything it's that that's made me wo'se lately."
"Why by Mrs. Landa," said the girl, "Why don't you give it all to them?"
"You don't know what you'a talkin' about," said Mrs. Lander, severely." I
guess if I give 'em five thousand or so amongst'em, it's full moa than
they eve thought of havin', and it's moa than they got any right to.
Well, that's all right, then; and we don't need to talk about it any moa.
Yes," she resumed, after a moment, "that's what I shall do. I hu'n't eva
felt just satisfied with that last will I got made, and I guess I shall
tear it up, and get the fust American lawyer that comes along to make me
a new one. The prop'ty's all goin' to you, but I guess I shall leave
five thousand apiece to the two families out the'e. You won't miss it,
any, and I presume it's what Mr. Landa would expect I should do; though
why he didn't do it himself, I can't undastand, unless it was to show his
confidence in me."
She began to ask Clementina how she felt about staying in Venice all
summer; she said she had got so much better there already that she
believed she should be well by fall if she stayed on. She was certain
that it would put her all back if she were to travel now, and in Europe,
where it was so hard to know how to get to places, she did not see how
they could pick out any that would suit them as well as Venice did.
Clementina agreed to it all, more or less absentmindedly, as she sat
looking into the moonlight, and the day that had begun so stormily ended
in kindness between them.
The next morning Mrs. Lander did not wish to go out, and she sent
Clementina and Hinkle together as a proof that they were all on good
terms again. She did not spare the girl this explanation in his
presence, and when they were in the gondola he felt that he had to say,
"I was afraid you might think I was rather meddlesome yesterday."
"Oh, no," she answered. "I was glad you did."
"Yes," he returned, "I thought you would be afterwards." He looked at
her wistfully with his slanted eyes and his odd twisted smile and they
both gave way in the same conscious laugh. "What I like," he explained
further, "is to be understood when I've said something that doesn't mean
anything, don't you? You know anybody can understand you if you really
mean something; but most of the time you don't, and that's when a friend
is useful. I wish you'd call on me if you're ever in that fix."
"Oh, I will, Mr. Hinkle," Clementina promised, gayly.
"Thank you," he said, and her gayety seemed to turn him graver. "Miss
Clementina, might I go a little further in this direction, without
"What direction?" she added, with a flush of sudden alarm.
"Why, suttainly!" she answered, in quick relief.
"I wish you'd let me do some of the worrying about her for you, while I'm
here. You know I haven't got anything else to do!"
"Why, I don't believe I worry much. I'm afraid I fo'get about her when
I'm not with her. That's the wo'st of it."
"No, no," he entreated, "that's the best of it. But I want to do the
worrying for you even when you're with her. Will you let me?"
"Why, if you want to so very much."
"Then it's settled," he said, dismissing the subject.
But she recurred to it with a lingering compunction.
"I presume that I don't remember how sick she is because I've neva been
sick at all, myself."
"Well," he returned, "You needn't be sorry for that altogether. There
are worse things than being well, though sick people don't always think
so. I've wasted a good deal of time the other way, though I've reformed,
They went on to talk about themselves; sometimes they talked about
others, in excursions which were more or less perfunctory, and were
merely in the way of illustration or instance. She got so far in one of
these as to speak of her family, and he seemed to understand them. He
asked about them all, and he said he believed in her father's unworldly
theory of life. He asked her if they thought at home that she was like
her father, and he added, as if it followed, "I'm the worldling of my
family. I was the youngest child, and the only boy in a flock of girls.
That always spoils a boy."
"Are you spoiled?" she asked.
"Well, I'm afraid they'd be surprised if I didn't come to grief somehow--
all but--mother; she expects I'll be kept from harm."
"Is she religious?"
"Yes, she's a Moravian. Did you ever hear of them?" Clementina shook
her head. "They're something, like the Quakers, and something like the
Methodists. They don't believe in war; but they have bishops."
"And do you belong to her church?"
"No," said the young man. "I wish I did, for her sake. I don't belong to
any. Do you?"
"No, I go to the Episcopal, at home. Perhaps I shall belong sometime.
But I think that is something everyone must do for themselves." He
looked a little alarmed at the note of severity in her voice, and she
explained. "I mean that if you try to be religious for anything besides
religion, it isn't being religious;--and no one else has any right to ask
you to be."
"Oh, that's what I believe, too," he said, with comic relief. "I didn't
know but I'd been trying to convert you without knowing it." They both
laughed, and were then rather seriously silent.
He asked, after a moment, in a fresh beginning, "Have you heard from Miss
Milray since you left Florence?"
"Oh, yes, didn't I tell you? She's coming here in June."
"Well, she won't have the pleasure of seeing me, then. I'm going the
last of May."
"I thought you were going to stay a month!" she protested.
"That will be a month; and more, too."
"So it will," she owned.
"I'm glad it doesn't seem any longer-say a year--Miss Clementina!"
"Oh, not at all," she returned. "Miss Milray's brother and his wife are
coming with her. They've been in Egypt."
"I never saw them," said Hinkle. He paused, before he added, "Well, it
would seem rather crowded after they get here, I suppose," and he
laughed, while Clementina said nothing.
Hinkle came every morning now, to smoothe out the doubts and difficulties
that had accumulated in Mrs. Lander's mind over night, and incidentally
to propose some pleasure for Clementina, who could feel that he was
pitying her in her slavery to the sick woman's whims, and yet somehow
entreating her to bear them. He saw them together in what Mrs. Lander
called her well days; but there were other days when he saw Clementina
alone, and then she brought him word from Mrs. Lander, and reported his
talk to her after he went away. On one of these she sent him a
cheerfuller message than usual, and charged the girl to explain that she
was ever so much better, but had not got up because she felt that every
minute in bed was doing her good. Clementina carried back his regrets
and congratulation, and then told Mrs. Lander that he had asked her to go
out with him to see a church, which he was sorry Mrs. Lander could not
see too. He professed to be very particular about his churches, for he
said he had noticed that they neither of them had any great gift for
sights, and he had it on his conscience to get the best for them. He
told Clementina that the church he had for them now could not be better
if it had been built expressly for them, instead of having been used as a
place of worship for eight or ten generations of Venetians before they
came. She gave his invitation to Mrs. Lander, who could not always be
trusted with his jokes, and she received it in the best part.
"Well, you go!" she said. "Maddalena can look after me, I guess. He's
the only one of the fellas, except that lo'd, that I'd give a cent for."
She added, with a sudden lapse from her pleasure in Hinkle to her
severity with Clementina, "But you want to be ca'eful what you' doin'."
"Yes!--About Mr. Hinkle. I a'n't agoin' to have you lead him on, and
then say you didn't know where he was goin'. I can't keep runnin' away
everywhe'e, fo' you, the way I done at Woodlake."
Clementina's heart gave a leap, whether joyful or woeful; but she
answered indignantly, "How can you say such a thing to me, Mrs. Lander.
I'm not leading him on!"
"I don't know what you call it. You're round with him in the gondoler,
night and day, and when he's he'e, you'a settin' with him half the time
on the balcony, and it's talk, talk, the whole while." Clementina took
in the fact with silent recognition, and Mrs. Lander went on. "I ain't
sayin' anything against it. He's the only one I don't believe is afta
the money he thinks you'a goin' to have; but if you don't want him, you
want to look what you're about."
The girl returned to Hinkle in the embarrassment which she was helpless
to hide, and without the excuse which she could not invent for refusing
to go with him. "Is Mrs. Lander worse--or anything?" he asked.
"Oh, no. She's quite well," said Clementina; but she left it for him to
break the constraint in which they set out. He tried to do so at
different points, but it seemed to close upon them--the more inflexibly.
At last he asked, as they were drawing near the church, "Have you ever
seen anything of Mr. Belsky since you left Florence?"
"No," she said, with a nervous start. "What makes you ask?"
"I don't know. But you see nearly everybody again that you meet in your
travels. That friend of his--that Mr. Gregory--he seems to have dropped
out, too. I believe you told me you used to know him in America."
"Yes," she answered, briefly; she could not say more; and Hinkle went on.
"It seemed to me, that as far as I could make him out, he was about as
much of a crank in his way as the Russian. It's curious, but when you
were talking about religion, the other day, you made me think of him!"
The blood went to Clementina's heart. "I don't suppose you had him in
mind, but what you said fitted him more than anyone I know of. I could
have almost believed that he had been trying to convert you!" She stared
at him, and he laughed. "He tackled me one day there in Florence all of
a sudden, and I didn't know what to say, exactly. Of course, I respected
his earnestness; but I couldn't accept his view of things and I tried to
tell him so. I had to say just where I stood, and why, and I mentioned
some books that helped to get me there. He said he never read anything
that went counter to his faith; and I saw that he didn't want to save me,
so much as be wanted to convince me. He didn't know it, and I didn't
tell him that I knew it, but I got him to let me drop the subject. He
seems to have been left over from a time when people didn't reason about
their beliefs, but only argued. I didn't think there was a man like that
to be found so late in the century, especially a young man. But that was
just where I was mistaken. If there was to be a man of that kind at all,
it would have to be a young one. He'll be a good deal opener-minded when
he's older. He was conscientious; I could see that; and he did take the
Russian's death to heart as long as he was dead. But I'd like to talk
with him ten years from now; he wouldn't be where he is."
Clementina was still silent, and she walked up the church steps from the
gondola without the power to speak. She made no show of interest in the
pictures and statues; she never had really cared much for such things,
and now his attempts to make her look at them failed miserably. When
they got back again into the boat he began, "Miss Clementina, I'm afraid
I oughtn't to have spoken as I did of that Mr. Gregory. If he is a
friend of yours"--
"He is," she made herself answer.
"I didn't mean anything against him. I hope you don't think I wanted to
"You were not unfair. But I oughtn't to have let you say it, Mr. Hinkle.
I want to tell you something--I mean, I must"--She found herself panting
and breathless. "You ought to know it--Mr. Gregory is--I mean we are"--
She stopped and she saw that she need not say more.
In the days that followed before the time that Hinkle had $xed to leave
Venice, he tried to come as he had been coming, to see Mrs. Lander, but
he evaded her when she wished to send him out with Clementina. His
quaintness had a heartache in it for her; and he was boyishly simple in
his failure to hide his suffering. He had no explicit right to suffer,
for he had asked nothing and been denied nothing, but perhaps for this
reason she suffered the more keenly for him.
A senseless resentment against Gregory for spoiling their happiness crept
into her heart; and she wished to show Hinkle how much she valued his
friendship at any risk and any cost. When this led her too far she took
herself to task with a severity which hurt him too. In the midst of the
impulses on which she acted, there were times when she had a confused
longing to appeal to him for counsel as to how she ought to behave toward
There was no one else whom she could appeal to. Mrs. Lander, after her
first warning, had not spoken of him again, though Clementina could feel
in the grimness with which she regarded her variable treatment of him
that she was silently hoarding up a sum of inculpation which would crush
her under its weight when it should fall upon her. She seemed to be
growing constantly better, now, and as the interval since her last attack
widened behind her, she began to indulge her appetite with a recklessness
which Clementina, in a sense of her own unworthiness, was helpless to
deal with. When she ventured to ask her once whether she ought to eat of
something that was very unwholesome for her, Mrs. Lander answered that
she had taken her case into her own hands, now, for she knew more about
it than all the doctors. She would thank Clementina not to bother about
her; she added that she was at least not hurting anybody but herself, and
she hoped Clementina would always be able to say as much.
Clementina wished that Hinkle would go away, but not before she had
righted herself with him, and he lingered his month out, and seemed as
little able to go as she to let him. She had often to be cheerful for
both, when she found it too much to be cheerful for herself. In his
absence she feigned free and open talks with him, and explained
everything, and experienced a kind of ghostly comfort in his imagined
approval and forgiveness, but in his presence, nothing really happened
except the alternation of her kindness and unkindness, in which she was
too kind and then too unkind.
The morning of the' day he was at last to leave Venice, he came to say
good bye. He did not ask for Mrs. Lander, when the girl received him,
and he did not give himself time to lose courage before he began, "Miss
Clementina, I don't know whether I ought to speak to you after what I
understood you to mean about Mr. Gregory." He looked steadfastly at her
but she did not answer, and he went on. "There's just one chance in a
million, though, that I didn't understand you rightly, and I've made up
my mind that I want to take that chance. May I?" She tried to speak,
but she could not. "If I was wrong--if there was nothing between you and
him--could there ever be anything beween you and me?"
His pleading looks entreated her even more than his words.
"There was something," she answered, "with him."
"And I mustn't know what," the young man said patiently.
"Yes--yes!" she returned eagerly. "Oh, yes! I want you to know--I want
to tell you. I was only sixteen yea's old, and he said that he oughtn't
to have spoken; we were both too young. But last winta he spoke again.
He said that he had always felt bound"--She stopped, and he got infirmly
to his feet. "I wanted to tell you from the fust, but"--
"How could you? You couldn't. I haven't anything more to say, if you
are bound to him."
"He is going to be a missionary and he wanted me to say that I would
believe just as he did; and I couldn't. But I thought that it would come
right; and--yes, I felt bound to him, too. That is all--I can't explain
"Oh, I understand!" he returned, listlessly.
"And do you blame me for not telling before?" She made an involuntary
movement toward him, a pathetic gesture which both entreated and
"There's nobody to blame. You have tried to do just right by me, as well
as him. Well, I've got my answer. Mrs. Lander--can I"--
"Why, she isn't up yet, Mr. Hinkle." Clementina put all her pain for him
into the expression of their regret.
"Then I'll have to leave my good-bye for her with you. I don't believe I
can come back again." He looked round as if he were dizzy. "Good-bye,"
he said, and offered his hand. It was cold as clay.
When he was gone, Clementina went into Mrs: Lander's room, and gave her
"Couldn't he have come back this aftanoon to see me, if he ain't goin'
till five?" she demanded jealously.
"He said he couldn't come back," Clementina answered sadly.
The woman turned her head on her pillow and looked at the girl's face.
"Oh!" she said for all comment.
The Milrays came a month later, to seek a milder sun than they had left
burning in Florence. The husband and wife had been sojourning there
since their arrival from Egypt, but they had not been his sister's
guests, and she did not now pretend to be of their party, though the same
train, even the same carriage, had brought her to Venice with them. They
went to a hotel, and Miss Milray took lodgings where she always spent her
Junes, before going to the Tyrol for the summer.
"You are wonderfully improved, every way," Mrs. Milray said to Clementina
when they met. "I knew you would be, if Miss Milray took you in hand;
and I can see she has. What she doesn't know about the world isn't worth
knowing! I hope she hasn't made you too worldly? But if she has, she's
taught you how to keep from showing it; you're just as innocent-looking
as ever, and that's the main thing; you oughtn't to lose that. You
wouldn't dance a skirt dance now before a ship's company, but if you did,
no one would suspect that you knew any better. Have you forgiven me,
yet? Well, I didn't use you very well, Clementina, and I never pretended
I did. I've eaten a lot of humble pie for that, my dear. Did Miss
Milray tell you that I wrote to her about it? Of course you won't say
how she told you; but she ought to have done me the justice to say that I
tried to be a friend at court with her for you. If she didn't, she
"She neva said anything against you, Mrs. Milray," Clementina answered.
"Discreet as ever, my dear! I understand! And I hope you understand
about that old affair, too, by this time. It was a complication. I had
to get back at Lioncourt somehow; and I don't honestly think now that his
admiration for a young girl was a very wholesome thing for her. But
never mind. You had that Boston goose in Florence, too, last winter,
and I suppose he gobbled up what little Miss Milray had left of me. But
she's charming. I could go down on my knees to her art when she really
tries to finish any one."
Clementina noticed that Mrs. Milray had got a new way of talking. She
had a chirpiness, and a lift in her inflections, which if it was not
exactly English was no longer Western American. Clementina herself in
her association with Hinkle had worn off her English rhythm, and in her
long confinement to the conversation of Mrs. Lander, she had reverted to
her clipped Yankee accent. Mrs. Milray professed to like it, and said it
brought back so delightfully those pleasant days at Middlemount, when
Clementina really was a child. "I met somebody at Cairo, who seemed very
glad to hear about you, though he tried to seem not. Can you guess who
it was? I see that you never could, in the world! We got quite chummy
one day, when we were going out to the pyramids together, and he gave
himself away, finely. He's a simple soul! But when they're in love
they're all so! It was a little queer, colloguing with the ex-headwaiter
on society terms; but the head-waitership was merely an episode, and the
main thing is that he is very talented, and is going to be a minister.
It's a pity he's so devoted to his crazy missionary scheme. Some one
ought to get hold of him, and point him in the direction of a rich New
York congregation. He'd find heathen enough among them, and he could do
the greatest amount of good with their money; I tried to talk it into
him. I suppose you saw him in Florence, this spring?" she suddenly
"Yes," Clementina answered briefly.
"And you didn't make it up together. I got that much out of Miss Milray.
Well, if he were here, I should find out why. But I don't suppose you
would tell me." She waited a moment to see if Clementina would, and then
she said, "It's a pity, for I've a notion I could help you, and I think I
owe you a good turn, for the way I behaved about your dance. But if you
don't want my help, you don't."
"I would say so if I did, Mrs. Milray," said Clementina. "I was hu't,
at the time; but I don't care anything for it, now. I hope you won't
think about it any more!"
"Thank you," said Mrs. Milray, "I'll try not to," and she laughed. "But
I should like to do something to prove my repentance."
Clementina perceived that for some reason she would rather have more than
less cause for regret; and that she was mocking her; but she was without
the wish or the power to retaliate, and she did not try to fathom Mrs.
Milray's motives. Most motives in life, even bad motives, lie nearer the
surface than most people commonly pretend, and she might not have had to
dig deeper into Mrs. Milray's nature for hers than that layer of her
consciousness where she was aware that Clementina was a pet of her
sister-in-law. For no better reason she herself made a pet of Mrs.
Lander, whose dislike of Miss Milray was not hard to divine, and whose
willingness to punish her through Clementina was akin to her own. The
sick woman was easily flattered back into her first belief in Mrs. Milray
and accepted her large civilities and small services as proof of her
virtues. She began to talk them into Clementina, and to contrast them
with the wicked principles and actions of Miss Milray.
The girl had forgiven Mrs. Milray, but she could not go back to any trust
in her; and she could only passively assent to her praise. When Mrs.
Lander pressed her for anything more explicit she said what she thought,
and then Mrs. Lander accused her of hating Mrs. Milray, who was more her
friend than some that flattered her up for everything, and tried to make
a fool of her.
"I undastand now," she said one day, "what that recta meant by wantin' me
to make life ba'd for you; he saw how easy you was to spoil. Miss Milray
is one to praise you to your face, and disgrace you be hind your back,
and so I tell you. When Mrs. Milray thought you done wrong she come and
said so; and you can't forgive her."
Clementina did not answer. She had mastered the art of reticence in her
relations with Mrs. Lander, and even when Miss Milray tempted her one day
to give way, she still had strength to resist. But she could not deny
that Mrs. Lander did things at times to worry her, though she ended
compassionately with the reflection: "She's sick."
"I don't think she's very sick, now," retorted her friend.
"No; that's the reason she's so worrying. When she's really sick, she's
"Because she's frightened, I suppose. And how long do you propose to
"I don't know," Clementina listlessly answered.
"She couldn't get along without me. I guess I can stand it till we go
home; she says she is going home in the fall."
Miss Milray sat looking at the girl a moment.
"Shall you be glad to go home?"
"Oh yes, indeed!"
"To that place in the woods?"
"Why, yes! What makes you ask?"
"Nothing. But Clementina, sometimes I think you don't quite understand
yourself. Don't you know that you are very pretty and very charming?
I've told you that often enough! But shouldn't you like to be a great
success in the world? Haven't you ever thought of that? Don't you care
The girl sighed. "Yes, I think that's all very nice I did ca'e, one
while, there in Florence, last winter!"
"My dear, you don't know how much you were admired. I used to tell you,
because I saw there was no spoiling you; but I never told you half. If
you had only had the time for it you could have been the greatest sort of
success; you were formed for it. It wasn't your beauty alone; lots of
pretty girls don't make anything of their beauty; it was your
temperament. You took things easily and naturally, and that's what the
world likes. It doesn't like your being afraid of it, and you were not
afraid, and you were not bold; you were just right." Miss Milray grew
more and more exhaustive in her analysis, and enjoyed refining upon it.
"All that you needed was a little hard-heartedness, and that would have
come in time; you would have learned how to hold your own, but the chance
was snatched from you by that old cat! I could weep over you when I
think how you have been wasted on her, and now you're actually willing to
go back and lose yourself in the woods!"
"I shouldn't call it being lost, Miss Milray."
"I don't mean that, and you must excuse me, my dear. But surely your
people--your father and mother--would want to have you get on in the
world--to make a brilliant match"--
Clementina smiled to think how far such a thing was from their
imaginations. "I don't believe they would ca'e. You don't undastand
about them, and I couldn't make you. Fatha neva liked the notion of my
being with such a rich woman as Mrs. Lander, because it would look as if
we wanted her money."
"I never could have imagined that of you, Clementina!"
"I didn't think you could," said the girl gratefully. "But now, if I
left her when she was sick and depended on me, it would look wohse, yet--
as if I did it because she was going to give her money to Mr. Landa's
family. She wants to do that, and I told her to; I think that would be
right; don't you?"
"It would be right for you, Clementina, if you preferred it--and--I
should prefer it. But it wouldn't be right for her. She has given you
hopes--she has made promises--she has talked to everybody."
"I don't ca'e for that. I shouldn't like to feel beholden to any one,
and I think it really belongs to his relations; it was HIS."
Miss Milray did not say anything to this. She asked, "And if you went
back, what would you do there? Labor in the fields, as poor little
Clementina laughed. "No; but I expect you'll think it's almost as crazy.
You know how much I like dancing? Well, I think I could give dancing
lessons at the Middlemount. There are always a good many children, and
girls that have not grown up, and I guess I could get pupils enough, as
long as the summa lasted; and come winter, I'm not afraid but what I
could get them among the young folks at the Center. I used to teach them
before I left home."
Miss Milray sat looking at her. "I don't know about such things; but it
sounds sensible--like everything about you, my dear. It sounds queer,
perhaps because you're talking of such a White Mountain scheme here in
"Yes, don't it?" said Clementina, sympathetically. "I was thinking of
that, myself. But I know I could do it. I could go round to different
hotels, different days. Yes, I should like to go home, and they would be
glad to have me. You can't think how pleasantly we live; and we're
company enough for each other. I presume I should miss the things I've
got used to ova here, at fust; but I don't believe I should care a great
while. I don't deny but what the wo'ld is nice; but you have to pay for
it; I don't mean that you would make me"--
"No, no! We understand each other. Go on!"
Miss Milray leaned towards her and pressed the girl's arm reassuringly.
As often happens with people when they are told to go on, Clementina
found that she had not much more to say. "I think I could get along in
the wo'ld, well enough. Yes, I believe I could do it. But I wasn't bohn
to it, and it would be a great deal of trouble--a great deal moa than if
I had been bohn to it. I think it would be too much trouble. I would
rather give it up and go home, when Mrs. Landa wants to go back."
Miss Milray did not speak for a time. "I know that you are serious,
Clementina; and you're wise always, and good"--
"It isn't that, exactly," said Clementina. "But is it--I don't know how
to express it very well--is it wo'th while?"
Miss Milray looked at her as if she doubted the girl's sincerity. Even
when the world, in return for our making it our whole life, disappoints
and defeats us with its prizes, we still question the truth of those who
question the value of these prizes; we think they must be hopeless of
them, or must be governed by some interest momentarily superior.
Clementina pursued, "I know that you have had all you wanted of the
"Oh, no!" the woman broke out, almost in anguish. "Not what I wanted!
What I tried for. It never gave me what I wanted. It--couldn't!"
"It isn't worth while in that sense. But if you can't have what you
want,--if there's been a hollow left in your life--why the world goes a
great way towards filling up the aching void." The tone of the last
words was lighter than their meaning, but Clementina weighed them aright.
"Miss Milray," she said, pinching the edge of the table by which she sat,
a little nervously, and banging her head a little, "I think I can have
what I want." Then, give the whole world for it, child!"
"There is something I should like to tell you."
"For you to advise me about."
"I will, my dear, gladly and truly!"
"He was here before you came. He asked me"--
Miss Milray gave a start of alarm. She said, to gain time: "How did he
get here? I supposed he was in Germany with his"--
"No; he was here the whole of May."
"Mr. Gregory?" Clementina's face flushed and drooped Still lower.
"I meant Mr. Hinkle. But if you think I oughtn't"--
"I don't think anything; I'm so glad! I supposed from what you said
about the world, that it must be--But if it isn't, all the better. If
it's Mr. Hinkle that you can have"--
"I'm not sure I can. I should like to tell you just how it is, and then
you will know." It needed fewer words for this than she expected, and
then Clementina took a letter from her pocket, and gave it to Miss
Milray. "He wrote it on the train, going away, and it's not very plain;
but I guess you can make it out."
Miss Milray received the penciled leaves, which seemed to be pages torn
out of a note-book. They were dated the day Hinkle left Venice, and the
envelope bore the postmark of Verona. They were not addressed, but began
abruptly: "I believe I have made a mistake; I ought not to have given you
up till I knew something that no one but you can tell me. You are not
bound to any body unless you wish to be so. That is what I see now, and
I will not give you up if I can help it. Even if you had made a promise,
and then changed your mind, you would not be bound in such a thing as
this. I say this, and I know you will not believe I say it because I
want you. I do want you, but I would not urge you to break your faith.
I only ask you to realize that if you kept your word when your heart had
gone out of it, you would be breaking your faith; and if you broke your
word you would be keeping your faith. But if your heart is still in your
word, I have no more to say. Nobody knows but you. I would get out and
take the first train back to Venice if it were not for two things. I
know it would be hard on me; and I am afraid it might be hard on you.
But if you will write me a line at Milan, when you get this, or if you
will write to me at London before July; or at New York at any time--for I
expect to wait as long as I live"--
The letter ended here in the local addresses which the writer gave.
Miss Milray handed the leaves back to Clementina, who put them into her
pocket, and apparently waited for her questions.
"And have you written?"
"No," said the girl, slowly and thoughtfully, "I haven't. I wanted to,
at fust; and then, I thought that if he truly meant what he said he would
be willing to wait."
"And why did you want to wait?"
Clementina replied with a question of her own. "Miss Milray, what do you
think about Mr. Gregory?"
"Oh, you mustn't ask me that, my dear! I was afraid I had told you too
plainly, the last time."
"I don't mean about his letting me think he didn't ca'e for me, so long.
But don't you think he wants to do what is right! Mr. Gregory, I mean."
"Well, if you put me on my honor, I'm afraid I do."
"You see," Clementina resumed. "He was the fust one, and I did ca'e for
him a great deal; and I might have gone on caring for him, if--When I
found out that I didn't care any longer, or so much, it seemed to me as
if it must be wrong. Do you think it was?"
"When I got to thinking about some one else at fust it was only not
thinking about him--I was ashamed. Then I tried to make out that I was
too young in the fust place, to know whether I really ca'ed for any one
in the right way; but after I made out that I was, I couldn't feel
exactly easy--and I've been wanting to ask you, Miss Milray"--
"Ask me anything you like, my dear!"
"Why, it's only whether a person ought eva to change."
"We change whether we ought, or not. It isn't a matter of duty, one way
"Yes, but ought we to stop caring for somebody, when perhaps we shouldn't
if somebody else hadn't come between? That is the question."
"No," Miss Milray retorted, "that isn't at all the question. The
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