A Tale of a Lonely Parish eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 316 pages of information about A Tale of a Lonely Parish.
acuteness.  She had indeed two separate causes for fear.  The one was due to her anxiety for Goddard’s safety; the other to her apprehensions for Nellie.  She had long determined that at all hazards the child must be kept from the knowledge of her father’s disgrace, by being made to believe in his death.  It was a falsehood indeed, but such a falsehood as may surely be forgiven to a woman as unhappy as Mary Goddard.  It seemed monstrous that the innocent child, who seemed not even to have inherited her father’s looks or temper, should be brought up with the perpetual sense of her disgrace before her, should be forced to listen to explanations of her father’s crimes and tutored to the comprehension of an inherited shame.  From the first Mary Goddard had concealed the whole matter from the little girl, and when Walter was at last convicted, she had told her that her father was dead.  Dead he might be, she thought, before twelve years were out, and Nellie would be none the wiser.  In twelve years from the time of his conviction Nellie would be in her twenty-first year; if it were ever necessary to tell her, it would be time enough then, for the girl would have at least enjoyed her youth, free of care and of the horrible consciousness of a great crime hanging over her head.  No child could grow up in such a state as that implied.  No mind could develop healthily under the perpetual pressure of so hideous a secret; from her earliest childhood her impressions would be warped, her imagination darkened and her mental growth stunted.  It would be a great cruelty to tell her the truth; it was a great mercy to tell her the falsehood.  It was no selfish timidity which had prompted Mary Goddard, but a carefully weighed consideration for the welfare of her child.

If now, within these twenty-four hours, Nellie should discover who the poor tramp was, who had frightened her so much on the previous evening, all this would be at an end.  The child’s life would be made desolate for ever.  She would never recover from the shock, and to injure lovely Nellie so bitterly would be worse to Mary Goddard than to be obliged to bear the sharpest suffering herself.  For, from the day when she had waked to a comprehension of her husband’s baseness, the love for her child had taken in her breast the place of the love for Walter.

She did not think connectedly; she did not realise her fears; she was almost wholly unstrung.  But she had procured the fifty pounds her husband required and she waited for the night with a dull hope that all might yet be well—­as well as anything so horrible could be.  If only her husband were not caught in Billingsfield it would not be so bad, perhaps.  And yet it may be that her wisest course would have been to betray him that very night.  Many just men would have said so; but there are few women who would do it.  There are few indeed, so stonyhearted as to betray a man once loved in such a case; and Mary Goddard in her wildest fear never

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A Tale of a Lonely Parish from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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