“And Paul Linmere was about to become your husband. Could there be a more potent reason for Archer Trevlyn to desire Mr. Linmere’s death? He was an obstacle which could be removed in no other way than by death, because you had promised your father to marry him, and you could not falsify your word. All men are weak and liable to sin; is Trevlyn any exception? Margie, I have told you frankly what I know. You can credit it or not. I leave it with you; decide as you think best. It is eight o’clock. I will go now, for it is time for your lover to come for you.”
“O, I cannot meet him—not to-night! I must have time to think—time to collect my thoughts! My head whirls so, and everything is so dark! Stay, Alexandrine, and excuse me to him. Say I have a headache—anything to quiet him. I cannot see him now! I should go mad! Let me have a night to think of it!”
Alexandrine put her hand on the soft hair of the bowed head.
“My poor Margie! it is hard for you. Hark! there is the bell. He has come. Will you not go down?”
“No, no, no! Do what you judge best, and leave me to myself and my God.”
Alexandrine went out, and Margie, locking the door after her, flung herself down on the carpet and buried her face in the pillows of the sofa.
Miss Lee swept down the staircase, her dark, bright face resplendent, her bearing haughty as that of an empress. Arch was in the parlor. He looked up eagerly as the door opened, but his countenance fell when he saw that it was only Miss Lee. She greeted him cordially.
“Good evening, Mr. Trevlyn. I am deputized to receive you, and my good intentions must be accepted in place of more fervid demonstrations.”
“I am happy to see you, Miss Lee. Where is Margie?”
“She is in her room, somewhat indisposed. She begged me to ask you to excuse her, as she is unable to come down, and of course cannot have pleasure of going with you to the opera.”
“Sick? Margie sick!” he exclaimed, anxiously. “What can be the matter? She was well enough three hours ago.”
“O, do not be uneasy. It is nothing serious. A headache, I think. She will be well after a night’s rest. Cannot I prevail on you to sit down?”
“I think not, to-night, thank you. I will call to-morrow. Give Margie my best love, and tell her how sorry I am that she is ill.”
Alexandrine promised, and Mr. Trevlyn bowed himself out. She put her hand to her forehead, which seemed almost bursting with the strange weight there.
“Guilty or not guilty,” she muttered, “what does it matter to me? I love him, and that is enough?”
The long night passed away, as all nights, however long and dark they may be, will pass away.
Margie had not slept. She had paced her chamber until long after midnight, utterly disregarding Alexandrine, who had knocked repeatedly at her door, and at last, overcome by weariness, she had sunk down in a chair by the open window, and sat there, gazing blankly out into the night, with its purple heavens, and its glory of sparkling stars.