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THAT a woman who has pledged herself
solemnly before the world and her own
conscience to be faithful to a man, should
be false to him, did not seem in Barletti's
confused code of ethics, to be blameworthy.
Veronica false to her husband, would have
sunk no jot in Cesare's esteem. It would
all have been according to the experience of
the world in which he had lived: a loveless
ambitious marriage, and a subsequent
compensating attachment. The experience of
the world in which he had lived was his
religion; its opinion, his conscience.  He
would, no doubt, have acted in contradiction
to his world's opinion under sufficient
temptation: as men with a higher creed have
acted against their conscience. But he
would have experienced the same sort of
pain in so doing, as attend the conscious
disregard of whatever we are accustomed
to consider as a sanction.

Now, he was called upon to readjust all
his ideas regarding Sir John Gale and
Veronica.  His first strong sentiment in
the matter was blame of Sir John.  And
it was not altogether unpleasant to find a
justification for an even stronger dislike to
the baronet, than he had yet confessed to
himself that he entertained. Sir John was
an old villain!  He had brought this girl
away from her home.  He must have
deceived her basely.  Poor, lonely, helpless,
inexperienced girl!

This, then, accounted for her apprehension
on hearing that Sir John's life was in
danger!  She knew how horrible her position
would be, should he die before making
her his wife.  It seemed pretty clear that the
sentence of the physicians had fixed Sir
John's wavering mind, and determined the
performance of this act of reparation towards
Veronica. She had conquered!  Barletti felt
some admiring triumph in that thought.
But it did not soften him towards the

He believed Sir John to be thoroughly
cynical and unprincipled: but that did not
make it incredible that the old roué should
have been frightened into doing right, by
the near approach of death. It was quite
conceivable to him that such tardy reparation
might avail him before the Tribunal to
which Sir John must shortly be summoned.
The priests taught the efficacy of a deathbed
repentance.  He (Barletti) did not much
believe in the priests, but these were professional
matters which they probably understood.
It was no concern of his to inquire
further.  He had no more idea of arraigning
the morality of such teaching, than of
repudiating all law because a thief might
possibly escape punishment by a technical flaw
in the indictment.  And he was perfectly
at liberty to detest the thief all the same.

This late selfish restitution could not
obliterate the memory of the harassing
anxiety to which Veronica had been cruelly
subjected. And there was, too, the latent
considerationflavouring the whole current
of his reflectionsthat he himself had
narrowly escaped being placed in an unpleasant
position. It was one thing to be the favoured
suitor of a wealthy widow; and quite another
to be bound to a woman without rank, or
money, or influence; whose sole dowry
would be her beauty, and an imperious
appetite for the luxuries that only great
wealth can purchase.