would be harder to do, if things went on in this manner--to bear Mr. Franklin Blake's indifference to me, or to jump into the quicksand and end it for ever in that way?

`It's useless to ask me to account for my own conduct, at this time. I try--and I can't understand it myself.

`Why didn't I stop you, when you avoided me in that cruel manner? Why didn't I call out, "Mr. Franklin, I have got something to say to you; it concerns yourself, and you must, and shall, hear it?" You were at my mercy--I had got the whip-hand of you, as they say. And better than that, I had the means (if I could only make you trust me) of being useful to you in the future. Of course, I never supposed that you--a gentleman--had stolen the Diamond for the mere pleasure of stealing it. No. Penelope had heard Miss Rachel, and I had heard Mr. Betteredge, talk about your extravagance and your debts. It was plain enough to me that you had taken the Diamond to sell it, or pledge it, and so to get the money of which you stood in need. Well! I could have told you of a man in London who would have advanced a good large sum on the jewel, and who would have asked no awkward questions about it either.

`Why didn't I speak to you! why didn't I speak to you!

`I wondered whether the risks and difficulties of keeping the nightgown were as much as I could manage, without having other risks and difficulties added to them? This might have been the case with some women--but how could it be the case with me? In the days when I was a thief, I had run fifty times greater risks, and found my way out of difficulties to which this difficulty was mere child's play. I had been apprenticed, as you may say, to frauds and deceptions--some of them on such a grand scale, and managed so cleverly, that they became famous, and appeared in the newspapers. Was such a little thing as the keeping of the nightgown likely to weigh on my spirits, and to set my heart sinking within me, at the time when I ought to have spoken to you? What nonsense to ask the question! The thing couldn't be.

`Where is the use of my dwelling in this way on my own folly? The plain truth is plain enough, surely? Behind your back, I loved you with all my heart and soul. Before your face--there's no denying it--I was frightened of you; frightened of making you angry with me; frightened of what you might say to me (though you had taken the Diamond) if I presumed to tell you that I had found it out. I had gone as near to it as I dared when I spoke to you in the library. You had not turned your back on me then. You had not started away from me as if I had got the plague. I tried to provoke myself into feeling angry with you, and to rouse up my courage in that way. No! I couldn't feel anything but the misery and the mortification of it. "You're a plain girl; you have got a crooked shoulder; you're only a housemaid--what do you mean by attempting to speak to Me?" You never uttered a word of that, Mr. Franklin; but you said it all to me, nevertheless! Is such madness as this to be accounted for? No. There is nothing to be done but to confess it, and let it be.

`I ask your pardon, once more, for this wandering of my pen. There is no fear of its happening again. I am close at the end now.

`The first person who disturbed me by coming into the empty room was Penelope. She had found out my secret long since, and she had done her best to bring me to my senses--and done it kindly too.

`"Ah!" she said, "I know why you're sitting here, and fretting, all by yourself. The best thing that can happen for your advantage, Rosanna, will be for Mr. Franklin's visit here to come to an end. It's my belief that he won't be long now before he leaves the house."

`In all my thoughts of you I had never thought of your going away. I couldn't speak to Penelope. I could only look at her.

`"I've just left Miss Rachel," Penelope went on. "And a hard matter I have had of it to put up with her temper. She says the house is unbearable to her with the police in it; and she's determined to speak to my lady this evening, and to go to her Aunt Ablewhite to-morrow. If she does that, Mr. Franklin will be the next to find a reason for going away, you may depend on it!"

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