This was the letter:—
“DEAR MISS BISHOP—”
(To call her “Sally” in diamonds and “Miss Bishop” in ink, was ridiculous. Ink was infinitely cheaper; and if he could afford the one, then why not the other?)
“I make it a habit to discharge debts. With this to you, I wipe out my debit sheet and stand clear. You remember my bet on the Hammersmith ’bus. I hope you were none the worse for my foolishness of our last evening. I have regretted my thoughtlessness many times since.
“J. HEWITT TRAILL.”
“What foolishness?” asked Janet, looking up quickly at the end. “What did he do?”
Of the fight and her fainting, Sally had told her nothing. She told her nothing now. The fear that Traill might be thought selfish—a thought which love had refused to give entrance to in her own mind—had led her to defend him with silence. Now she told the deliberate lie, unblushingly, unfearingly.
“He did nothing,” she replied; “that’s only a joke of his. But you see, I can’t keep the bangle,” she went on quickly, covering the lie with words, as Eugene Aram hid the body of his victim with dead leaves. “I must send it back to him. I never knew he really meant it when he made that bet. I never even thought he meant it when he reminded me of it that day after lunch.”
“No more he did mean it,” said Janet, sharply. “If he’d seen you again and again—he’d never have paid it—not as he’s pretending to pay it now.”
Sally took up the bangle in her fingers.
“You don’t call this pretence, do you?” she asked. “Why, it’s worth even much more than he said in his bet. He paid more than ten pounds for this.”
“Exactly,” said Janet, shrewdly; “doesn’t that prove it? If he was only paying his bet, you can make pretty sure that he’d have sent the money and not a penny more than he owed.”
“Yes; but do you think he’d do a thing like that?” said Sally, with pride. “He’d know I wouldn’t accept it that way.”
“Well, perhaps not,” Janet agreed; “but then he wouldn’t have bought a thing that cost a penny more than ten pounds, if so much. You don’t know men when they’re parting with money that they’ve had to whip some one else to get. You say he’s not so very well off. At any rate, he wouldn’t have given you a thing that cost fifteen or twenty pounds—those diamonds aren’t so small—when he only owed you ten.”
“But he didn’t owe it to me!” Sally interrupted.
“Very well, he didn’t. Then why do you think he’s sent you this?”
“Because he thinks he does.”
“Very well, again; then why does he send you something that’s worth so much more?”
Janet folded her arms in a triumph of silence. For a long time Sally could frame no reply. It had seemed, only an hour before, that she would have been so willing to seize at any straw which the tide of affairs should bring her, and now that the solid branch had floated to her reach, she could not find the confidence to throw her whole weight upon it. It was the letter that thwarted her; the letter that warned her from too great a hope.