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 One day, about the end of June, he came in to see me when I had two or three other visitors; you know that even at that season I am almost always at home from six to seven. He had not been three minutes in the room before I saw that he was different,—different from what he had been the last time, and I guessed that something had happened in relation to his marriage. My visitors did n’t, unfortunately, and they stayed and stayed until I was afraid he would have to go away without telling me what, I was sure, he had come for. But he sat them out; I think that by exception they did n’t find him pleasant. After we were alone he abused them a little, and then he said, “Have you heard about Vandeleur? He ‘s very ill. She’s awfully1 anxious.” I had n’t heard, and I told him so, asking a question or two; then my inquiries2 ceased, my breath almost failed me, for I had become aware of something very strange. The way he looked at me when he told me his news was a full confession3,—a confession so full that I had needed a moment to take it in. He was not too strong a man to be taken by surprise,—not so strong but that in the presence of an unexpected occasion his first movement was to look about for a little help. I venture to call it help, the sort of thing he came to me for on that summer afternoon. It is always help when a woman who is not an idiot lets an embarrassed man take up her time. If he too is not an idiot, that does n’t diminish the service; on the contrary his superiority to the average helps him to profit. Ambrose Tester had said to me more than once, in the past, that he was capable of telling me things, because I was an American, that he would n’t confide4 to his own people. He had proved it before this, as I have hinted, and I must say that being an American, with him, was sometimes a questionable5 honor. I don’t know whether he thinks us more discreet6 and more sympathetic (if he keeps up the system: he has abandoned it with me), or only more insensible, more proof against shocks; but it is certain that, like some other Englishmen I have known, he has appeared, in delicate cases, to think I would take a comprehensive view. When I have inquired into the grounds of this discrimination in our favor, he has contented7 himself with saying, in the British-cursory manner, “Oh, I don’t know; you are different!” I remember he remarked once that our impressions were fresher. And I am sure that now it was because of my nationality, in addition to other merits, that he treated me to the confession I have just alluded8 to. At least I don’t suppose he would have gone about saying to people in general, “Her husband will probably die, you know; then why should n’t I marry Lady Vandeleur?”  
That was the question which his whole expression and manner asked of me, and of which, after a moment, I decided9 to take no notice. Why shouldn’t he? There was an excellent reason why he should n’t It would just kill Joscelind Bernardstone; that was why he should n’t? The idea that he should be ready to do it frightened me, and independent as he might think my point of view, I had no desire to discuss such abominations. It struck me as an abomination at this very first moment, and I have never wavered in my judgment10 of it. I am always glad when I can take the measure of a thing as soon as I see it; it ‘s a blessing11 to feel what we think, without balancing and comparing. It’s a great rest, too, and a great luxury. That, as I say, was the case with the feeling excited in me by this happy idea of Ambrose Tester’s. Cruel and wanton I thought it then, cruel and wanton I thought it later, when it was pressed upon me. I knew there were many other people that did n’t agree with me, and I can only hope for them that their conviction was as quick and positive as mine; it all depends upon the way a thing strikes one. But I will add to this another remark. I thought I was right then, and I still think I was right; but it strikes me as a pity that I should have wished so much to be right Why could n’t I be content to be wrong; to renounce12 my influence (since I appeared to possess the mystic article), and let my young friend do as he liked? As you observed the situation at Doubleton, should n’t you say it was of a nature to make one wonder whether, after all, one did render a service to the younger lady?
At all events, as I say, I gave no sign to Ambrose Tester that I understood him, that I guessed what he wished to come to. He got no satisfactio............
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