which turned my sorrow and my sympathy for her into a new direction.
"While we were at Polesdean," she said, "you had a letter, Marian——"
Her altered tone—the abrupt manner in which she looked away from me and hid her face on my shoulder—the hesitation which silenced her before she had completed her question, all told me, but too plainly, to whom the half-expressed inquiry pointed.
"I thought, Laura, that you and I were never to refer to him again," I said gently.
"You had a letter from him?" she persisted.
"Yes," I replied, "if you must know it."
"Do you mean to write to him again?"
I hesitated. I had been afraid to tell her of his absence from England, or of the manner in which my exertions to serve his new hopes and projects had connected me with his departure. What answer could I make? He was gone where no letters could reach him for months, perhaps for years, to come.
"Suppose I do mean to write to him again," I said at last. "What then, Laura?"
Her cheek grew burning hot against my neck, and her arms trembled and tightened round me.
"Don't tell him about THE TWENTY-SECOND," she whispered. "Promise, Marian—pray promise you will not even mention my name to him when you write next."
I gave the promise. No words can say how sorrowfully I gave it. She instantly took her arm from my waist, walked away to the window, and stood looking out with her back to me. After a moment she spoke once more, but without turning round, without allowing me to catch the smallest glimpse of her face.
"Are you going to my uncle's room?" she asked. "Will you say that I consent to whatever arrangement he may think best? Never mind leaving me, Marian. I shall be better alone for a little while."
I went out. If, as soon as I got into the passage, I could have transported Mr. Fairlie and Sir Percival Glyde to the uttermost ends of the earth by lifting one of my fingers, that finger would have been raised without an instant's hesitation. For once my unhappy temper now stood my friend. I should have broken down altogether and burst into a violent fit of crying, if my tears had not been all burnt up in the heat of my anger. As it was, I dashed into Mr. Fairlie's room—called to him as harshly as possible, "Laura consents to the twenty-second"—