It seemed to the poor child as if Mrs. Mason's words were irrevocable, and, that being so, she was shut out from every house. She saw how much she had done that was deserving of blame, now when it was too late to undo it. She knew with what severity and taunts Mrs. Mason had often treated her for involuntary fallings, of which she had been quite unconscious; and now she had really done wrong, and shrank with terror from the consequences. Her eyes were so blinded by the fast-falling tears, she did not see (nor, had she seen, would she have been able to interpret) the change in Mr. Bellingham's countenance, as he stood silently watching her. He was silent so long, that even in her sorrow she began to wonder that he did not speak, and to wish to hear his soothing words once more.
"It is very unfortunate," he began, at last; and then he stopped; then he began again: "It is very unfortunate; for, you see, I did not like to name it to you before, but, I believe--I have business, in fact, which obliges me to go to town to-morrow--to London, I mean; and I don't know when I shall be able to return."
"To London!" cried Ruth; "are you going away? Oh, Mr. Bellingham!" She wept afresh, giving herself up to the desolate feeling of sorrow, which absorbed all the terror she had been experiencing at the idea of Mrs. Mason's anger. It seemed to her at this moment as though she could have borne everything but his departure; but she did not speak again; and, after two or three minutes had elapsed, he spoke--not in his natural careless voice, but in a sort of constrained, agitated tone.
"I can hardly bear the idea of leaving you, my own Ruth. In such distress, too; for where you can go I do not know at all. From all you have told me of Mrs. Mason, I don't think she is likely to mitigate her severity in your case.
No answer, but tears quietly, incessantly flowing. Mrs. Mason's displeasure seemed a distant thing; his going away was the present distress. He went on--
"Ruth, would you go with me to London? My darling, I cannot leave you here without a home; the thought of leaving you at all is pain enough, but in these circumstances--so friendless, so homeless--it is impossible. You mustcome with me, love, and trust to me."
Still she did not speak. Remember how young, and innocent, and motherless she was! It seemed to her as if it would be happiness enough to be with him; and as for the future, he would arrange and decide for that. The future lay wrapped in a golden mist, which she did not care to penetrate; but if he, her sun, was out of sight and gone, the golden mist became dark heavy gloom, through which no hope could come. He took her hand.
"Will you not come with me? Do you not love me enough to trust me? Oh, Ruth (reproachfully), can you not trust me?"