Page:A New England Tale.djvu/177

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166
A NEW-ENGLAND TALE.

even to deny it. It is all a devilish contrivance of that wicked woman."

"You are mistaken, Edward; it is not a contrivance; the circumstances are as she has told them to you.—Elvira did not mistake in supposing she heard me up in the night; and my aunt did find my handkerchief in her desk. No, Edward; she is right in all but the conclusion she draws from these unfortunate circumstances; perhaps," she added after a moment's pause, "a kinder judgment would not absolve me."

"A saint," replied Edward cheeringly, "needs no absolution. No one shall be permitted to accuse you, or suspect you; you can surely explain these accidental circumstances, so that even your aunt, malicious—venomous as she is, will not dare to breathe a poisonous insinuation against you, angel as you are."

"Ah," replied Jane, with a sad smile, "there are, and there ought to be, few believers in earth-born angels. No, Mr. Erskine, I have no explanation to make; I have nothing but assertions of my innocence, and my general character to rely upon. Those who reject this evidence must believe me guilty."

She rose to leave the room. Erskine gently drew her back, and asked if it was possible she included him among those who could be base enough to distrust her; and before she could reply he went on to a passionate declaration of his affections, followed by such promises of eternal