"Very well, then," said Grace, coldly, "it is right you should also read his answer. I'll bring it you."
"Not to-day, miss, if you please. There is no need. I know him: he is too much of a man to marry one girl when he loves another; and 'tis you he loves, and I hope you will be happy together."
A few quiet tears followed these brave words, and Grace looked at her askant, and began to do her justice.
"Ah!" said she, with a twinge of jealousy. "you know him better than I. You have answered for him, in his very words. Yet you can't love him as I do. I hope you are not come to ask me to give him up again, for I can't." Then she said, with quick defiance, "Take him from me, if you can." Then, piteously, "And if you do, you will kill me."
"Dear heart, I came of no such errand. I came to tell you I know how generous you have been to me, and made me your friend till death; and, when a Dence says that, she means it. I have been a little imprudent: but not so very. First word I said to him, in this very house, was, 'Are you really a workman?' I had the sense to put that question; for, the first moment I clapped eyes on him, I saw my danger like. Well, he might have answered me true; but you see he didn't. I think I am not so much to blame. Well, he is the young squire now, and no mate for me; and he loves you, that are of his own sort. That is sure to cure me--after a while. Simple folk like me aren't used to get their way, like the gentry. It takes a deal of patience to go through the world. If you think I'll let my heart cling to another woman's sweetheart--nay, but I'd tear it out of my breast first. Yes, I dare say, it will be a year or two before I can listen to another man's voice without hating him for wooing of me; but time cures all that don't fight against the cure. And YOU'LL love me a little, miss, now, won't you? You used to do, before I deserved it half as well as I do to-day."
"Of course I shall love you, my poor Jael. But what is my love, compared with that you are now giving up so nobly?"
"It is not much," said Jael, frankly; "but 'a little breaks a high fall.' And I'm one that can only enjoy my own. Better a penny roll with a clear conscience, than my neighbor's loaf. I'd liever take your love, and deserve it, than try to steal his."
All this time Grace was silently watching her, to see if there was any deceit, or self-deceit, in all this; and, had there been, it