'My own dearest love, if I could but describe to you all I have suffered before sitting down to write this letter! Since our last meeting I have not known one hour of quietness. To think that I missed you when you called and left that note--for it was you yourself, was it not? The journey was horrible, and the week that I have spent here--I assure you I have not slept for more than a few minutes at a time, and I am utterly broken down by misery. My darling,'--&c. 'I regard myself as a criminal; if you have suffered a thousandth part of what I have, I deserve any punishment that could be devised. For it has all been my fault. Knowing, as I did, that our love could never end in happiness, it was my duty to hide what I felt. I ought never to have contrived that first meeting alone--for it was contrived; I sent my sisters away on purpose. I ought never'--&c. 'The only reflection that can ever bring me comfort is that our love has been pure. We can always think of each other without shame. And why should this love ever have an end? We are separated, and perhaps shall never see each other again, but may not our hearts remain for ever true? May we not think'--&c. 'If I were to bid you leave your home and come to me, I should be once more acting with base selfishness. I should ruin your life, and load my own with endless self-reproach. I find that even mere outward circumstances would not allow of what for a moment we dreamt might be possible, and of that I am glad, since it helps me to overcome the terrible temptation. Oh, if you knew how that temptation'--&c. 'Time will be a friend to both of us, dearest Monica. Forget each other we never can, we never will. But our unsullied love'--&c,.
Monica read it through again, the long rigmarole. Since the day that she received it--addressed to 'Mrs Williamson' at the little stationer's by Lavender Hill--the day before she consented to accompany her sister into new lodgings, the letter had lain in its hiding-place. Alone this afternoon, for Virginia was gone to call on Miss Nunn, alone and miserable, every printed page a weariness to her sight, she took out the French-stamped envelope and tried to think that its contents interested her. But not a word had power of attraction or of repulsion. The tender phrases affected her no more