`Oh, very well,' replied I, moving to the door.
`Stay a moment,' said she. `This is the last time I shall see you: don't go just yet.'
I remained, awaiting her further commands.
Tell me,' resumed she, `on what grounds you believe these things against me; who told you? and what did they say?'
I paused a moment. She met my eye as unflinchingly as if her bosom had been steeled with conscious innocence. She was resolved to know the worst, and determined to dare it too. `I can crush that bold spirit,' thought I. But while I secretly exulted in my power, I felt disposed to dally with my victim like a cat. Showing her the book that I still held in my hand, and pointing to the name on the flyleaf, but fixing my eye upon her face, I asked,--
`Do you know that gentleman?'
`Of course I do,' replied she; and a sudden flush suffused her features--whether of shame or anger I could not tell: it rather resembled the latter. `What next, sir?'
`How long is it since you saw him?'
`Who gave you the right to catechise me, on this or any other subject?'
`Oh, no one!--it's quite at your option whether to answer or not.--And now, let me ask--have you heard what has lately befallen this friend of yours?--because, if you have not--'
`I will not be insulted, Mr Markham!' cried she, almost infuriated at my manner--`So you had better leave the house at once, if you came only for that.'
`I did not come to insult you: I came to hear your explanation.'
`And I tell you I won't give it!' retorted she, pacing the room in a state of strong excitement, with her hands clasped tightly together, breathing short, and flashing fires of indignation from her eyes. `I will not condescend to explain myself to one that can make a jest of such horrible suspicions, and be so easily led to entertain them.'
`I do not make a jest of them, Mrs Graham,' returned I, dropping at once my tone of taunting sarcasm.' I heartily wish I could find them a jesting matter! And as to being easily led to suspect, God only knows what a blind, incredulous fool I have hitherto been, perseveringly shutting my eyes and stopping my ears against everything that threatened to shake my confidence in you, till proof itself confounded my infatuation!'
`What proof, sir?'
`Well, I'll tell you. You remember that evening when I was here last?'
`Even then, you dropped some hints that might have opened the eyes of a wiser man; but they had no such effect upon me: I went on trusting and believing, hoping against hope, and adoring where I could not comprehend--It so happened, however, that after I had left you, I turned back--drawn by pure depth of sympathy, and ardour of affection--not daring to intrude my presence openly upon you, but unable to resist the temptation of catching one glimpse through the window, just to see how you were; for I had left you apparently in great affliction, and I partly blamed my own want of forbearance and discretion as the cause of it. If I did wrong, love alone was my incentive, and the punishment was severe enough; for it
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