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A Rogue's Life

in alarm, and almost repented my boldness in telling her the truth. However, fair-
dealing with her, cruel as it might seem at the time, was the best and safest
course for the future. How could I expect her to put all her trust in me if I began
by deceiving her--if I fell into prevarications and excuses at the very outset of our
renewal of intercourse? I went on desperately to the end, taking a hopeful view of
the most hopeless circumstances, and making my narrative as mercifully short as
possible.
When I had done, the poor girl, in the extremity of her forlornness and distress,
forgot all the little maidenly conventionalities and young-lady-like restraints of
everyday life--and, in a burst of natural grief and honest confiding helplessness,
hid her face on my bosom, and cried there as if she were a child again, and I was
the mother to whom she had been used to look for comfort.
I made no attempt to stop her tears--they were the safest and best vent for the
violent agitation under which she was suffering. I said nothing; words, at such a ti
me as that, would only have aggravated her distress. All the questions I had to
ask; all the proposals I had to make, must, I felt, be put off--no matter at what
risk--until some later and clamer hour. There we sat together, with one long
unsnuffed candle lighting us smokily; with the discordantly-grotesque sound of
the housekeeper's snoring in the front room, mingling with the sobs of the
weeping girl on my bosom. No other noise, great or small, inside the house or out
of it, was audible. The summer night looked black and cloudy through the little
back window.
I was not much easier in my mind, now that the trial of breaking my bad news to
Alicia was over. That stranger who had called at the house an hour before me,
weighed on my spirits. It could not have been Doctor Dulcifer. He would have
gained admission. Could it be the Bow Street runner, or Screw? I had lost sight
of them, it is true; but had they lost sight of me?
Alicia's grief gradually exhausted itself. She feebly raised her head, and, turning it
away from me, hid her face. I saw that she was not fit for talking yet, and begged
her to go upstairs to the drawing-room and lie down a little. She looked
apprehensively toward the folding-doors that shut us off from the front parlor.
"Leave Mrs. Baggs to me," I said. "I want to have a few words with her; and, as
soon as you are gone, I'll make noise enough here to wake her."
Alicia looked at me inquiringly and amazedly. I did not speak again. Time was
now of terrible importance to us--I gently led her to the door.
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