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Mr Lepel and the Housekeeper

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Mr Lepel and the Housekeeper

by Wilkie Collins

Genre: Romance
Setting:
Format of Original Source: Novella
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Reviewed

EXCERPT:

“Marry Susan.”

I heard the woman plainly–and yet, I declare, I doubted the evidence of my senses.

“She’s breaking her heart for you,” Mrs. Rymer burst out. “She’s been in love with you since you first darkened our doors–and it will end in the neighbors finding it out. I did my duty to her; I tried to stop it; I tried to prevent you from seeing her, when you went away. Too late; the mischief was done. When I see my girl fading day by day–crying about you in secret, talking about you in her dreams–I can’t stand it; I must speak out. Oh, yes, I know how far beneath you she is–the daughter of your uncle’s servant. But she’s your equal, sir, in the sight of Heaven. My lord’s priest converted her only last year–and my Susan is as good a Papist as yourself.”

How could I let this go on? I felt that I ought to have stopped it before.

“It’s possible,” I said, “that you may not be deliberately deceiving me. If you are yourself deceived, I am bound to tell you the truth. Mr. Rothsay loves your daughter, and, what is more, Mr. Rothsay has reason to know that Susan–“

“That Susan loves him?” she interposed, with a mocking laugh. “Oh, Mr. Lepel, is it possible that a clever man like you can’t see clearer than that? My girl in love with Mr. Rothsay! She wouldn’t have looked at him a second time if he hadn’t talked to her about _you_. When I complained privately to my lord of Mr. Rothsay hanging about the lodge, do you think she turned as pale as ashes, and cried when _he_ passed through the gate, and said good-by?”

She had complained of Rothsay to Lord Lepel–I understood her at last! She knew that my friend and all his family were poor. She had put her own construction on the innocent interest that I had taken in her daughter. Careless of the difference in rank, blind to the malady that was killing me, she was now bent on separating Rothsay and Susan, by throwing the girl into the arms of a rich husband like myself!

“You are wasting your breath,” I told her; “I don’t believe one word you say to me.”

“Believe Susan, then!” cried the reckless woman. “Let me bring her here. If she’s too shamefaced to own the truth, look at her–that’s all I ask–look at her, and judge for yourself!”

This was intolerable. In justice to Susan, in justice to Rothsay, I insisted on silence. “No more of it!” I said. “Take care how you provoke me. Don’t you see that I am ill? don’t you see that you are irritating me to no purpose?”

She altered her tone. “I’ll wait,” she said, quietly, “while you compose yourself.”


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