“Every one makes it their business to cast dirt on a girl’s name, who has disregarded the commonest rules of modesty and propriety.”

“Papa, you are very hard. Modesty disregarded! I will tell you exactly what I have done. I met Mr. Preston once—that evening when you put me down to walk over Croston Heath—and there was another person with him. I met him a second time—and that time by appointment—nobody but our two selves—in the Towers Park. That is all, papa. You must trust me. I cannot explain more. You must trust me indeed.”

He could not help relenting at her words; there was such truth in the tone in which they were spoken. But he neither spoke nor stirred for a minute or two. Then he raised his eyes to hers, for the first time since she had acknowledged the external truth of what he charged her with. Her face was very white, but it bore the impress of the final sincerity of death, when the true expression prevails without the poor disguises of time.

“The letters?” he said—but almost as if he were ashamed to question that countenance any further.

“I gave him one letter—of which I did not write a word—which, in fact, I believe to have been merely an envelope, without any writing whatever inside. The giving that letter—the two interviews I have named—make all the private intercourse I have had with Mr. Preston. Oh! papa, what have they been saying that has grieved—shocked you so much?”

“Never mind. As the world goes, what you say you have done, Molly, is ground enough. You must tell me all. I must be sure to refute these rumours point by point.”

“How are they to be refuted, when you say that the truth which I have acknowledged is ground enough for what people are saying?”

“You say you were not acting for yourself, but for another. If you tell me who the other was—if you tell me everything out fully, I will do my utmost to screen her—for of course I guess it was Cynthia—while I am exonerating you.”

“No, papa!” said Molly, after some little consideration; “I have told you all I can tell; all that concerns myself; and I have promised not to say one word more.”

“Then your character will be impugned. It must be, unless the fullest explanation of these secret meetings is given. I’ve a great mind to force the whole truth out of Preston himself.”

“Papa! once again I beg you to trust me. If you ask Mr. Preston, you will be very likely to hear the whole truth; but that is just what I have been trying so hard to conceal, for it will only make several people very unhappy, if it is known, and the whole affair is over and done with now.”

“Not your share in it. Miss Browning sent for me this evening, to tell me how people were talking about you. She implied that it was a complete loss of your good name. You don’t know, Molly, how slight a thing may blacken a girl’s reputation for life. I’d hard work to stand all she said, even though I didn’t believe a word of it at the time. And now you’ve told me that much of it is true.”

“But I think you are a brave man, papa. And you believe me, don’t you? We shall outlive these rumours, never fear.”

“You don’t know the power of ill-natured tongues, child,” said he.

“Oh, now you’ve called me ‘child’ again, I don’t care for anything. Dear, dear papa, I’m sure it is best and wisest to take no notice of these speeches. After all, they may not mean them ill-naturedly. I am sure Miss Browning would not. By-and-by they’ll quite forget how much they made out of so little—and even if they don’t, you would not have me break my solemn word, would you?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.