When M’Loughlin’s family assembled in the parlor, after their departure, a deep gloom I brooded over them for some minutes. Mary herself was the first to introduce the incident which gave them so much distress, and in which she herself had been so painfully involved. She lost not a moment, therefore, in relating fully and candidly the whole nature of her intercourse with Poll Doolin, and the hopes held out to her of Harman’s safety, through Phil M’Clutchy. At the same time, she expressed in forcible language, the sacrifice of feeling which it had cost her, and the invincible disgust with which she heard his very name alluded to. She then simply related the circumstance of his entering her room through the open window, and her belief, in consequence of the representations of Poll Doolin, that he did so out of his excessive anxiety to prevent bloodshed by the troopers—the trampling of whose horses’ feet and the ringing of whose arms had so completely overpowered her with the apprehension of violence, that she became incapable of preventing M’Clutchy’s entrance, or even of uttering a word for two or three minutes.
“However,” said she, “I now see their design, which was to’ ruin my reputation, and throw a stain upon my character and good name. So far, I fear, they have succeeded.” Tears then came to her relief, and she wept long and bitterly.
“Do not let it trouble you, my darling,” said her father. “Your conscience and heart are innocent, and that is a satisfaction greater than anything can deprive you of. You were merely wrong in not letting us know the conversation that took place between Poll Doolin and you; because, although you did not know it, we could have told you that Poll is a woman that no modest female ought to speak to in a private way. There was your error, Mary; but the heart was right with you, and there’s no one here going to blame you for a fault that you didn’t know to be one.”
Mary started on hearing this account of Poll Doolin, for she felt now that the interviews she held with her were calculated to heighten her disgrace, when taken in connection with the occurrence of the night. Her brothers, however, who knew her truth and many virtues, joined their parents in comforting and supporting her, but without the success which they could have wished. The more she thought of the toils and snares that had been laid for her, the more her perception of the calamity began to gain strength, and her mind to darken. She became restless, perplexed, and feverish—her tears ceased to flow—she sighed deeply, and seemed to sink into that most withering of maladies, dry grief, which, in her case, was certainly the tearless anguish of the heart. In this state she went to bed, conscious of her own purity, but by no means, in its full extent, of the ruined reputation to which she must awake on the succeeding day.