The Guilty River
We were alone in the glade, by the side of the spring. At that early hour there were no
interruptions to dread; but Cristel was ill at ease. She seemed to be eager to get back to
the cottage as soon as possible.
"Father tells me," she began abruptly, "he saw you at the boathouse. And it seemed to
him, that you were behaving yourself like a friend to that terrible man."
I reminded her of my having expressed the fear that we had been needlessly hard on him;
and, I added that he had written a letter which confirmed me in that opinion. She looked,
not only disappointed, but even alarmed.
"I had hoped," she said sadly, "that father was mistaken."
"So little mistaken," I assured her, "that I am going to drink tea with the man who seems
to frighten you. I hope he will ask you to meet
She recoiled from the bare idea of an invitation.
"Will you hear what I want to tell you?" she said earnestly. "You may alter your opinion
if you know what I have been foolish enough to do, when you saw me go to the other side
of the cottage."
"Dear Cristel, I know what I owe to your kind interest in me on that occasion!" Before I
could say a word of apology for having wronged her by my suspicions, she insisted on an
explanation of what I had just said.
"Did he mention it in his letter?" she asked.
I owned that I had obtained my information in this way. And I declared that he had
expressed his admiration of her, and his belief in her, in terms which made it a subject of
regret to me not to be able to show what he had written.
Cristel forgot her fear of our being interrupted. Her dismay expressed itself in a cry that
rang through the wood.
"You even believe in his letter?" she exclaimed. "Mr. Gerard! His writing in that way to
You about Me is a proof that he lies; and I'll make you see it. If you were anybody else
but yourself, I would leave you to your fate. Yes, your fate," she passionately repeated.
"Oh, forgive me, sir! I'm behaving disrespectfully; I beg your pardon. No, no; let me go
on. When I spoke to him in your best interests (as I did most truly believe) I never
suspected what mischief I had done, till I looked in his face. Then, I saw how he hated
you, and how vilely he was thinking in secret of me--"