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what I have related here respecting it; and
repeated to her, word for word (for I well
remember it), the answer I had received.

"Dear Ralph," she replied, "that answer
must have been written by my aunt. She
probably intercepted your letter, and replied
to it herself. Let us say no more about it,
if you please. She is dead now; but she was
a kind friend to me."

She sat in silence after this, her head
drooping slightly forward, and a dreamy
look in her eyes, as though she were trying
to realise to herself the strange knowledge
she had just acquired.

"And did you really and truly feel all that
you expressed towards me in that letter?"

"Did! I feel it now. How truly and
fondly I have loved you through many long
years, I cannot now tell. But let it pass.
My position in life is now changed, and—"

"Let that pass too," she said, interrupting
me. "There is still this foolish money
question to settle. After what you have
told me, you cannot reasonably refuse to
let me assist you as I propose.

"Less now than ever, Salome. Let not
my love be sullied by the touch of money.
Let me not in my musings hereafter think
of you as my creditor for so many pounds,
but as something to which my thoughts can
turn in trouble, and on which my recollection
can rest when all is dark around me."

"Oh, Ralph, it would not be so! You are
too fanciful. You would not be my debtor.
I give it to you freely, willinglya gift from
my heart."

"It cannot be. On this point I am firm."

"Look, Ralph, I will even go down on my
knees to ask you; to implore you! Freedom
may be yours, and a fair name before all men."

"Salomerise!"

"Ralph, Ralph, do not look at me so
sternly! There is no light of love in those
cold eyes. If you will not indeed take this
money as a gift from meyou said you loved
me fondly, you knowthentake me with
it, and it will be yours altogether!" Her
head dropped on my knees, and a torrent of
tears burst over them. One long kiss, and I
raised her up; placing her on the seat beside
me. I would not give way to all that I felt,
nor make too sure of my happiness till I had
told her all.

"Dearer to me than before," she said,
when I had concluded; "now that you have
no one in the world to love or care for you
except myself!" The next morning I
regained my freedom.

About a fortnight after my release, a daring
burglary was committed near a small town
in one of the midland counties. The property
stolen was valuable, and the police were
unusually active in tracking the thief; for it
was thought to be the work of one man. He
was apprehended; and, the county assizes
being close at hand, his trial came on the
following week. It resulted in his condemnation
to penal servitude for life. Previous to
his trial it was discovered that he was an
escaped convict, who had been sentenced
to transportation for life for coining, fifteen
years before. From this man I one day
received a letter, requesting me in urgent
terms to go and see him. His note was so
worded that I lost no time in complying with
his request.

He made a confession to me which was so
strange that, had I not respectable witnesses
to vouch for the truth of it, I should hesitate
to bring it forward here as a fact:—

He had known my father intimately for
years while undergoing his first sentence, for
coining. My father had frequently related to
him the incidents of his early life; dwelling
on them with a minuteness that made his
listener completely master of every detail.
They had frequently discussed various plans
for escaping together; and, when my father
lay mortally sick, two years before, his last
request was to beg of Groom (the coiner's
name) if he ever found himself again in
England, to seek out the dying man's wife
and child, and convey to them the assurance
that his last prayers were for them. Some
time afterwards, Groom succeeded in escaping;
and on finding himself in England the thought
struck him that he might turn the knowledge
he had acquired to his own benefit. The result
has been seen in his visit to me and the
deception consequent thereon. Groom
narrated the whole with much glee, vowing, as
he concluded, that it was one of the best
moves he had ever practised on anyone.
For further security, I had his confession.
taken down in writing, and induced him to
sign it.

After my release from prison, I engaged
temporary lodgings in a farm-house, a mile
or two from Howthwaite, and there awaited
the settlement of my affairs consequent on
my dismissal from Chalmy's Hospital. After
our marriage, it was the intention of Salome
and myself to go to America, and there to
begin the world anew. The confession of
Groom, however, upset our plans, and no
longer rendered it necessary for me to leave
Howthwaite. No reason now existed for
keeping secret the means by which I had
lost my money. I was in a position to prove
the deception that had been practised upon
me. My old friends stuck to me, and I was
once more unanimously elected master. My
marriage took place the same day that I was
re-installed. My dear scholarsthe old
widowsevery oneseemed rejoiced to see
me back. She whom I loved, and ever shall
love, better than life itself, was there to
witness my welcome.

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