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He had grasped the back of his chair with both hands, and stood looking hard at her. At length he said: "Charity, for once let's you and me talk together like friends."
Instantly she felt that something had happened, and that he held her in his hand.
"Where is Mr. Harney? Why hasn't he come back? Have you sent him away?" she broke out, without knowing what she was saying.
The change in Mr. Royall frightened her. All the blood seemed to leave his veins and against his swarthy pallor the deep lines in his face looked black.
"Didn't he have time to answer some of those questions last night? You was with him long enough!" he said.
Charity stood speechless. The taunt was so unrelated to what had been happening in her soul that she hardly understood it. But the instinct of self-defense awoke in her.
"Who says I was with him last night?"
"The whole place is saying it by now."
"Then it was you that put the lie into their mouths.--Oh, how I've always hated you!" she cried.
She had expected a retort in kind, and it startled her to hear her exclamation sounding on through silence.
"Yes, I know," Mr. Royall said slowly. "But that ain't going to help us much now."
"It helps me not to care a straw what lies you tell about me!"
"If they're lies, they're not my lies: my Bible oath on that, Charity. I didn't know where you were: I wasn't out of this house last night."
She made no answer and he went on: "Is it a lie that you were seen coming out of Miss Hatchard's nigh onto midnight?"
She straightened herself with a laugh, all her reckless insolence recovered. "I didn't look to see what time it was."
"You lost girl...you...you...Oh, my God, why did you tell me?" he broke out, dropping into his chair, his head bowed down like an old man's.
Charity's self-possession had returned with the sense of her danger. "Do you suppose I'd take the trouble to lie to YOU? Who are you, anyhow, to ask me where I go to when I go out at night?"
Mr. Royall lifted his head and looked at her. His face had grown quiet and almost gentle, as she remembered seeing it sometimes when she was a little girl, before Mrs. Royall died.
"Don't let's go on like this, Charity. It can't do any good to either of us. You were seen going into that fellow's house...you were seen coming out of it....I've watched this thing coming, and I've tried to stop it. As God sees me, I have...."
"Ah, it WAS you, then? I knew it was you that sent him away!"
He looked at her in surprise. "Didn't he tell you so? I thought he understood." He spoke slowly, with difficult pauses, "I didn't name you to him: I'd have cut my hand off sooner. I just told him I couldn't spare the horse any longer; and that the cooking was getting too heavy for Verena. I guess he's the kind that's heard the same thing before. Anyhow, he took it quietly enough. He said his job here was about done, anyhow; and there didn't another word pass between us....If he told you otherwise he told you an untruth."
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