“I saw that you wanted them that day, and when the peddler happened to overtake me in the woods where I was walking, after I left you, I acted on a sudden impulse, and I bought them for you. I meant to send them to you anonymously, then. I had committed one error in acting upon impulse-my rashness is my besetting sin—and I wished to add a species of deceit to that. But I was kept from it until-to-day. I hoped you would like to wear them to the dance to-night, and I put them in the post-office for you myself. Mr. Fane didn’t know anything about it. That is all. I am to blame, and no one else.”
He waited for her to speak, but Clementina could only say, “I don’t know what to say.”
“You can’t say anything that would be punishment enough for me. I have acted foolishly, cruelly.”
Clementina did not think so. She was not indignant, as she was when she thought Fane had taken this liberty with her, but if Mr. Gregory thought it was so very bad, it must be something much more serious than she had imagined. She said, “I don’t see why you wanted to do it,” hoping that he would be able to tell her something that would make his behavior seem less dreadful than he appeared to think it was.
“There is only one thing that could justify it, and that is something that I cannot justify.” It was very mysterious, but youth loves mystery, and Clementina was very young. “I did it,” said Gregory solemnly, and he felt that now he was acting from no impulse, but from a wisely considered decision which he might not fail in without culpability, “because I love you.”
“Oh!” said Clementina, and she started away from him.
“I knew that it would make me detestable!” he cried, bitterly. “I had to tell you, to explain what I did. I couldn’t help doing it. But now if you can forget it, and never think of me again, I can go away, and try to atone for it somehow. I shall be guided.”
Clementina did not know why she ought to feel affronted or injured by what he had said to her; but if Mr. Gregory thought it was wrong for him to have spoken so, it must be wrong. She did not wish him to feel badly, even if he had done wrong, but she had to take his view of what he had done. “Why, suttainly, Mr. Gregory,” she answered. “You mustn’t mind it.”
“But I do mind it. I have been very, very selfish, very thoughtless. We are both too young. I can’t ask you to wait for me till I could marry”—
The word really frightened Clementina. She said, “I don’t believe I betta promise.”
“Oh, I know it!” said Gregory. “I am going away from here. I am going to-morrow as soon as I can arrange—as soon as I can get away. Good-night—I”—Clementina in her agitation put her hands up to her face. “Oh, don’t cry—I can’t bear to have you cry.”
She took down her hands. “I’m not crying! But I wish I had neva seen those slippas.”