Read Norton, Andre - Novel 39 Online

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Norton, Andre - Novel 39 (31 page)

BOOK: Norton, Andre - Novel 39
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She nodded vigorously as she paused for
breath. Hester had been nerving herself during that flow of words to say what
must be said. She wet her dry lips with tongue tip.

 
          
 
"Margaret, I—I cannot possibly come with
you to Mars-den. You have been more than
kind,
you
have allowed me to be one of you for a little while. But there is rumor and
there is gossip. I bear a name that is whispered about. The police have taken a
deep interest in me and my affairs. Surely you know that I understand what all
this must mean. Your brother was drawn into my troubles because he was a
gentleman of courage. I shall not allow any shadow from what has happened to
gather against him or any of you.

 
          
 
"There is work I can do. Since I have
means on which I can now live, I will also have time to give to some
cause—"

 
          
 
"Hester!"
There was something so peremptory in Lady Farlie's voice that it silenced her
for a moment. "You are not one to hold to self-pity! Do not turn to that
now. We are not of social
London
, nor do we have ambitions in that direction. Those we wish for friends
will be our friends. Yes, there is always gossip. Too many so-called ladies
lead such dull lives that gossip is their one main contact with their fellows.

 
          
 
"You are well served in that you have
come from the colonies, you have not been known, and you need only be yourself
to halt all gossip—or at least ride it out.

 
          
 
"Hester"—again her voice
changed—"what is Albert to you?"

 
          
 
Hester colored. She had asked herself that
question so often during the past few days.

 
          
 
"You have spoken of a career for your
brother in politics," I she answered slowly, trying to straighten her
thoughts out in her own mind. "There gossip can be indeed deadly. I am not
suitable to attract a man who undoubtedly has a distinguished career before
him."

 
          
 
"I asked," Lady Farlie repeated in a
voice that approached sternness, "what is Albert to you?"

 
          
 
Hester tried to turn away her eyes from those
blue ones that laid a demand for the truth upon her.

 
          
 
"I—I would be his friend."

 
          
 
"Hester, I know my brother. Though we are
some years apart in age, still we were close until I left home. I said that my
mother did not write me, but Albert did—very faithfully. Each mail brought at
least two letters from him, sometimes more. He cultivated as he grew older the
shell that made of him the proper young man of society, but underneath there
was still the Albert I knew. He has never been interested in any girl before.
You have been very good to him, that shell was growing far too hard. Albert
wants more than friendship—are you prepared to grant him that?"

 
          
 
Hester swallowed. She had the feeling that she
was in some train carriage being rushed along far too
fast,
to a destination that was so strange she might not be able to ever understand
it. Albert—what did she want, truly?

 
          
 
"Give me a little time ..."

 
          
 
Lady Farlie was smiling again; her firm, plump
hand closed over Hester's and the roses moved in their wrapping, loosing again
some of their perfume.

 
          
 
"Time?
You will
have plenty of that with Albert coming home tomorrow. Sometimes one thinks too
much—rather one must feel. Trust to that now, my dear."

 

 

BOOK: Norton, Andre - Novel 39
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