`To tell Sir Percival Glyde the truth with my own lips,' she answered. `and to let him release me, if he will, not because I ask him, but because he knows all.'

`What do you mean, Laura, by ``all''? Sir Percival will know enough (he has told me so himself) ii he knows that the engagement is opposed to your own wishes.'

`Can I tell him that, when the engagement was made for me by my father, with my own consent? I should have kept my promise, not happily. I am afraid, but still contentedly --' she stopped, turned her face to me, and laid her cheek close against mine -- `I should have kept my engagement, Marian, if another love had not grown up in my heart, which was not there when I first promised to be Sir Percival's wife.'

`Laura! you will never lower yourself by making a confession to him?'

`I shall lower myself, indeed, if I gain my release by hiding from him what he has a right to know.'

`He has not the shadow of a right to know it!'

`Wrong, Marian, wrong! I ought to deceive no one -- least of all the man to whom my father gave me, and to whom I gave myself.' She put her lips to mine, and kissed me. `My own love,' she said softly, `you are so much too fond of me, and so much too proud of me, that you forget, in my case, what you would remember in your own. Better that Sir Percival should doubt my motives, and misjudge my conduct if he will, than that I should be first false to him in thought, and then mean enough to serve my own interests by hiding the falsehood.'

I held her away from me in astonishment. For the first time in our lifes we had changed places -- the resolution was all on her side, the hesitation all on mine. I looked into the pale, quiet, resigned young face -- I saw the pure, innocent heart, in the loving eyes that looked back at me -- and the poor worldly cautions and objections that rose to my lips dwindled and died away in their own emptiness. I hung my head in silence. In her place the despicably small pride which makes so many women deceitful would have been my pride, and would have made me deceitful too.

`Don't be angry with me, Marian,' she said, mistaking my silence.

I only answered by drawing her close to me again. I was afraid of crying if I spoke. My tears do not flow so easily as they ought -- they come almost like men's tears, with sobs that seem to tear me in pieces, and that frighten every one about me.

`I have thought of this, love, for many days,' she went on, twining and twisting my hair with that childish restlessness in her fingers, which Poor Mrs Vesey still tries so patiently and so vainly to cure her of -- `I have thought of it very seriously, and I can be sure of my courage when my own conscience tells me I am right. Let me speak to him tomorrow -- in your presence, Marian. I will say nothing that is wrong, nothing that you or I need be ashamed of -- but, oh, it will ease my heart so to end this miserable concealment! Only let me know and feel that I have no deception to answer for on my side, and then, when he has heard what I have to say, let him act towards me as he will.'

She sighed, and put her head back in its old position on my bosom. Sad misgivings about what the end would be weighed upon my mind, but still distrusting myself, I told her that I would do as she wished. She thanked me, and we passed gradually into talking of other things.

At dinner she joined us again, and was more easy and more herself with Sir Percival than I have seen her yet. In the evening she went to the piano, choosing new music of the dexterous, tuneless, florid kind. The lovely old melodies of Mozart, which poor Hartright was so fond of, she has never played since he left. The book is no longer in the music-stand. She took the volume away herself, so that nobody might find it out and ask her to play from it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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