Then there had been a long interval of silence before she had asked him something further regarding the yachting party.
And now she was lying on her bed trying to recall every word that he had spoken, and with a dread over her that what he had said would bear out that terrible suspicion which she had prayed to God to forgive her for entertaining on that night when Ella had gone home with her husband.
No rumor had reached her ears regarding the closeness of the intimacy existing between Mr. Courtland and Mrs. Linton; and thus it was that when that suspicion had come upon her, after Ella had left her, she felt that she was guilty of something akin to a crime--a horrible breach of friendship, only to be expiated by tears and prayers.
That terrible thought had been borne upon her as a suggestion to account for much that she could not understand in the words and the behavior of Ella during that remarkable evening; and, in spite of her remorse and her prayers, she could not rid herself of it. It left its impression upon her mind, upon her heart. Hitherto she had only heard about the way an unlawful passion sweeps over two people, causing them to fling to the winds all considerations of home, of husband, of religion, of honor; and she felt it to be very terrible to be brought face to face with such a power; it seemed to her as terrible as to be brought face to face with that personal Satan in whom she believed.
It only required such a hint as that which had come from George Holland to set her smoldering suspicion--suspicion of a suspicion--in a flame. It had flamed up before him in those words which she had spoken to him. If Ella were guilty, he, George Holland, was to be held responsible for her guilt.
But Ella was not guilty; Herbert Courtland was not guilty.
"No, no, no!" she cried, in the solitude of her chamber. "She did not talk as a guilty woman would talk; and he--he went straight out of the room where I had told him what Mrs. Haddon said about his mother, his sister--straight aboard the yacht; and she----"
All at once the truth flashed upon her; the truth--she felt that it was the truth; and both of them were guiltless. It was for Herbert Courtland that Ella had put on that lovely dress; but she was guiltless, he was guiltless. (Curiously enough, she felt quite as happy in the thought that he was guiltless.) Yes, Ella had come to her wearing that dress instead of waiting for him, and he---- Ah, she now knew what he had meant when he had called her his good angel. She had saved him.