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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 193 pages of information about Natalie.

Delwood was thunderstruck.

“Indeed, I never could have mistrusted Mrs. Santon’s character was so vile!” said he; “but I can sooner believe this than that darkness is born of light.  And has Miss Grosvenor suffered the ill-will of this cruel, cruel woman, and never lisped a word but should lead others to respect her?  Noble girl that she is! thrice noble have these very evil designings proved her!  ’Tis useless for intrigue to cope with purity.”

“And she bade you come and see for yourself.  What meaning is there in that?” asked Winnie; for surely such an act would go to prove her innocence.”

“If Mrs. Santon can stoop to the deed, which fortunately has been disclosed in time to prevent the affair from coming to Miss Grosvenor’s knowledge, she would not hesitate to do a meaner thing, favorable to the furtherance of her plans; and it is my opinion there is more to be learned in regard to this matter.  I will foil her by following her own advice, and at the appointed hour will station myself as desired, not as a spy upon her ways, but that I may sift this affair to the bottom.”

Accordingly, at the hour which Mrs. Santon had mentioned, Mr. Delwood’s summons were answered by the mistress of the mansion in person, who smilingly drew him to the conservatory, which overlooked the drawing-room, where he could, unobserved by any one, notice every movement of her whose very being was dearer than his own.  Natalie was performing his favorite air, and as he listened, he gradually lost sight of the object of his visit,—­engulfed in the ocean of bliss which her impassioned tones had spread before him, when he was recalled to a sense of outward circumstances by the voice of the Signor, who, as the bird-like trill of her voice died away, sprang to his feet, and in a voice hoarse with passion, exclaimed,—­“Never!” and was about to leave the house, when Delwood intercepted him in the hall, and taking him by the collar, demanded to know the cause of his strange conduct.  The Signor, in his peculiar dialect, replied, “Do not detain me, sir! it were far better that none should ever know of the temptation which well-nigh made me a villain!”

“You do not leave this house, sir, until you disclose to me what may concern my welfare!  And do not, I pray you, sir, force me to treat you as other than a gentleman, for if I mistake not, you are yet worthy of respect.”

“You do me proud, sir; but I would much prefer to keep my own tongue; for should it come to the ear of madam that her secret is a secret no longer, I fear it may prove an injury to my professional duties.”

“Remember that I have said, sir, you do not leave this house until you have given me an account of your strange conduct; but in doing thus, if I find you undeserving of censure, it shall be no sacrifice to your reputation.  I will pledge myself that you lose nothing.”

“Since you are determined, sir, I will make a clean breast of it,” said the Signor, dashing several pieces of gold upon the floor,—­“there, sir, is indeed the root of all evil! that gold was placed in my hands by a woman, who would make me a tool for the carrying out of designs, which I have not the heart to perform.”

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