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Richard Vandermarck online

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sensible, and making yourself an offence to all less admirable people."

Richard was entirely silent, and, I was sure, was disapproving of me
very much.

"Do you know what I heard yesterday?" I said, In a daring way. "And I
hope you're going to tell me if it's true, to-night?"

"What was it that you heard yesterday?" he asked, without much change of
tone. He had laid down the photograph, and had gone back, and was
leaning by the mantelpiece again.

"Why, I heard that you were going to marry Charlotte Benson. Is it

I had pushed away the pile of photographs from me, and had looked up at
him when I began, but my voice and courage rather failed before the end,
and my eyes fell. There was a silence - a silence that seemed to
stifle me.

"Why do you ask me that question?" he said, at last, in a low voice. "Do
you believe I am, yourself?"

"No," I cried, springing up, and going over to his side. "No, I don't
believe it. Tell me it isn't true, and promise me you won't ever, ever
marry Charlotte Benson."

The relief was so unspeakable that I didn't care what I said, and the
joy I felt showed itself in my face and voice. I put out my hand to him
when I said "promise me," but he did not take it, and turned his head
away from me.

"I shall not marry Charlotte Benson," he said; "but I cannot understand
what difference it makes to you."

It was now my turn to be silent, and I shrank back a step or two in
great confusion.

He raised his head, and looked steadily at me for a moment, and then

"Pauline, you did a great many things, but I don't think you ever
willingly deceived me. Did you?"

I shook my head without looking lip.

"Then be careful what you do now, and let the past alone," he said, and
his voice was almost stern.

I trembled, and turned pale.

"Women sometimes play with dangerous weapons," he said; "I don't accuse
you of meaning to give pain, but only of forgetting that some
recollections are not to you what they are to me. I never want to
interfere with any one's comfort or enjoyment; I only want to be let
alone. I do very well, and am not unhappy. About marrying, now or ever,
I should have thought you would have known. But let me tell you once for
all: I haven't any thought of it, and shall not ever have. It is not
that I am holding to any foolish hopes. It would be exactly the same if
you were married, or had died. It simply isn't in my nature to feel the
same way a second time. People are made differently, that is all. I'm
very well contented, and you need never let it worry you."

He was very pale now, and his eyes had an expression I had never seen in
them before.

"Richard," I said, faintly, "I never _have_ deceived you: believe me now
when I tell you, I am sorry from my heart for all that's past."

"You told me so before, and I did forgive you. I forgave you fully, and
have never had a thought that wasn't kind."

"I know it," I said. "But you do not trust me - you don't ever come near
me, or want to see me."

"You do not know what you are talking of," he answered, turning from me.
"I forgive you anything you may have done at any time to give me pain. I
will do everything I can to serve you, in every way I can; only do not
stir up the past, and let me forget the little of it that I can forget."

I burst into tears, and put my hands before my face.

"What is it?" he said, uneasily. "You need not be troubled about me."

Seeing that I did not stop, he said again, "Tell me: is it that that
troubles you?"

I shook my head.

"What is it, then? Something that I do not know about? Pauline, you are
unhappy, and yet you've everything in the world to make you happy. I
often think, there are not many women have as much."

"The poorest of them are better off than I," I said, without raising my

"Then you are ungrateful," he said, "for you have youth, and health, and
money, and everybody likes you. You could choose from all the world."

"No, I couldn't," I exclaimed, like a child; "and everybody doesn't like
me," - and then I cried again, for I was really in despair, and thought
he meant to put me away, memory and all.

"Well, if that's your trouble," he said, with a sigh, "I suppose I
cannot help you; but I'm very sorry."

"Yes, you _can_ help me," I cried imploringly, forgetting all I ought to
have remembered; "if you only would forgive me, really and in earnest,
and be friends again - and let me try - " and I covered my face with
my hands.

"Pauline," he said, standing by my side, and his voice almost frightened
me, it was so strong with feeling; "is this a piece of sentiment? Do you
mean anything? Or am I to be trifled with again?"

He took hold of my wrists with both his hands, with such force as to
give me pain, and drew them from my face.

"Look at me," he said, "and tell me what you mean; and decide
now - forever and forever. For this is the last time that you will have a
chance to say."

"It's all very well," I said, trying to turn my face away from him.
"It's all very well to talk about loving me yet, and being just the
same; but this isn't the way you used to talk, and I think it's
very hard - "

"That isn't answering me," he said, holding me closer to him.

"What shall I say," I whispered, hiding my face upon his arm. "Nothing
will ever satisfy you."

"Nothing ever _has_ satisfied me," he said, " - before."


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Online LibraryMiriam Coles HarrisRichard Vandermarck → online text (page 16 of 16)