“Nearly? you might say quite,” says Sir Adrian, laughing. “Florence, as we have discovered their secret, I think it will be only honest of us to tell them ours.”
Florence blushes and glances rather shyly at Ethel.
“I know it,” cries that young lady, clapping her hands. “You are going to marry Sir Adrian, Florence, and he is going to marry you!”
At this they all laugh.
“Well, one of those surmises could hardly come off without the other,” observes Ringwood, with a smile. “So your second guess was a pretty safe one. If she is right, old man”—turning to Sir Adrian—“I congratulate you both with all my heart.”
“Yes, she is quite right,” responds Sir Adrian, directing a glance full of ardent love upon Florence. “What should I do with the life she restored to me unless I devoted it to her service?”
“You see, he is marrying me only out of gratitude,” says Florence, smiling archly, but large tears of joy and gladness sparkle in her lovely eyes.
When Florence finds her way, at the expiration of the hour, to Dora’s room, she discovers that fair little widow dissolved in tears, and indeed sorely perplexed and shamed. The sight of Florence only seems to render her grief more poignant, and when her cousin, putting her arm round her, tries to console her, she only responds to the caress by flinging herself upon her knees, and praying her to forgive her.
And then the whole truth comes out. All the petty, mean, underhand actions, all the cruel lies, all the carefully spoken innuendoes, all the false reports are brought into the light and laid bare to the horrified eyes of Florence.
Dora’s confession is thorough and complete in every sense. Not in any way does she seek to shield herself, or palliate her own share in the deception practiced upon the unconscious girl now regarding her with looks of amazement and deep sorrow, but in bitter silence.
When the wretched story is at an end, and Dora, rising to her feet, declares her intention of leaving England forever, Miss Delmaine stands like one turned into stone, and says no word either of censure or regret.
Dora, weeping violently, goes to the door, but, as her hand is raised to open it, the pressure upon the gentle heart of Florence is suddenly removed, and in a little gasping voice she bids her stay.
Dora remains quite still, her eyes bent upon the floor, waiting to hear her cousin’s words of just condemnation; expecting only to hear the scathing words of scorn with which her cousin will bid her begone from her sight for evermore. But suddenly she feels two soft arms close around her, and Florence, bursting into tears, lays her head upon her shoulder.
“Oh, Dora, how could you do it!” she falters, and that is all. Never, either then or afterward, does another sentence of reproach pass her lips; and Dora, forgiven and taken back to her cousin’s friendship, endeavors earnestly for the future to avoid such untruthful paths as had so nearly led her to her ruin.