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“The sooner we bring this painful scene to an end the better,” she said. “I shall be glad to avail myself of your professional assistance, Mr. Troy, within certain limits. Outside of my house, I beg that you will spare no trouble in tracing the lost money to the person who has really stolen it. Inside of my house, I must positively request that the disappearance of the note may never be alluded to, in any way whatever, until your inquiries have been successful in discovering the thief. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Tollmidge and her family must not be sufferers by my loss: I shall pay the money again.” She paused, and pressed Isabel’s hand with affectionate fervor. “My child,” she said, “one last word to you, and I have done. You remain here, with my trust in you, and my love for you, absolutely unshaken. When you think of what has been said here to-day, never forget that.”

Isabel bent her head, and kissed the kind hand that still held hers. The high spirit that was in her, inspired by Lady Lydiard’s example, rose equal to the dreadful situation in which she was placed.

“No, my Lady,” she said calmly and sadly; “it cannot be. What this gentleman has said of me is not to be denied — the appearances are against me. The letter was open, and I was alone in the room with it, and Mr. Moody told me that a valuable inclosure was inside it. Dear and kind mistress! I am not fit to be a member of your household, I am not worthy to live with the honest people who serve you, while my innocence is in doubt. It is enough for me now that you don’t doubt it. I can wait patiently, after that, for the day that gives me back my good name. Oh, my Lady, don’t cry about it! Pray, pray don’t cry!”

Lady Lydiard’s self-control failed her for the first time. Isabel’s courage had made Isabel dearer to her than ever. She sank into a chair, and covered her face with her handkerchief. Mr. Troy turned aside abruptly, and examined a Japanese vase, without any idea in his mind of what he was looking at. Lady Lydiard had gravely misjudged him in believing him to be a heartless man.

Isabel followed the lawyer, and touched him gently on the arm to rouse his attention.

“I have one relation living, sir — an aunt — who will receive me if I go to her,” she said simply. “Is there any harm in my going? Lady Lydiard will give you the address when you want me. Spare her Ladyship, sir, all the pain and trouble that you can.”

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At last the heart that was in Mr. Troy asserted itself. “You are a fine creature!” he said, with a burst of enthusiasm. “I agree with Lady Lydiard — I believe you are innocent, too; and I will leave no effort untried to find the proof of it.” He turned aside again, and had another look at the Japanese vase.

As the lawyer withdrew himself from observation, Moody approached Isabel.

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Thus far he had stood apart, watching her and listening to her in silence. Not a look that had crossed her face, not a word that had fallen from her, had escaped him. Unconsciously on her side, unconsciously on his side, she now wrought on his nature with a purifying and ennobling influence which animated it with a new life. All that had been selfish and violent in his passion for her left him to return no more. The immeasurable devotion which he laid at her feet, in the days that were yet to come — the unyielding courage which cheerfully accepted the sacrifice of himself when events demanded it at a later period of his life — struck root in him now. Without attempting to conceal the tears that were falling fast over his cheeks — striving vainly to express those new thoughts in him that were beyond the reach of words — he stood before her the truest friend and servant that ever woman had.

“Oh, my dear! my heart is heavy for you. Take me to serve you and help you. Her Ladyship’s kindness will permit it, I am sure.”

He could say no more. In those simple words the cry of his heart reached her. “Forgive me, Robert,” she answered, gratefully, “if I said anything to pain you when we spoke together a little while since. I didn’t mean it.” She gave him her hand, and looked timidly over her shoulder at Lady Lydiard. “Let me go!” she said, in low, broken tones, “Let me go!”

Mr. Troy heard her, and stepped forward to interfere before Lady Lydiard could speak. The man had recovered his self-control; the lawyer took his place again on the scene.

“You must not leave us, my dear,” he said to Isabel, “until I have put a question to Mr. Moody in which you are interested. Do you happen to have the number of the lost bank-note?” he asked, turning to the steward.

Moody produced his slip of paper with the number on it. Mr. Troy made two copies of it before he returned the paper. One copy he put in his pocket, the other he handed to Isabel.

“Keep it carefully,” he said. “Neither you nor I know how soon it may be of use to you.”

Receiving the copy from him, she felt mechanically in her apron for her pocketbook. She had used it, in playing with the dog, as an object to hide from him; but she had suffered, and was still suffering, too keenly to be capable of the effort of remembrance. Moody, eager to help her even in the most trifling thing, guessed what had happened. “You were playing with Tommie,” he said; “is it in the next room?”